The litmus paper of a society moral and ethical level is the attitude toward the most vulnerable members of this society: senior citizens, people with disabilities, and children. Sustainable development of an economy is determined by ensuring conditions for the well-being of a man and the whole society. Issues dedicated to well-being in modern society are among the priority topics expanding the scope of interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers and specialists around the world. This issue is crucially important for people with special needs. Integration of special and senior citizens into society through modern technologies is one of those tasks that Tomsk Polytechnic University is actively engaged in.
In 2014, The Lifelong Wellbeing Lab was opened at the University in the framework of the joint project of TPU scientists and Professor Fabio Casati, aimed at improving the quality of life of senior citizens. In this joint project, the researchers study the lifestyle of Russian senior citizens and develop recommendations for improving their well-being. The project won the competition of the Russian government and received a grant 38 million rubles at co-funding conditions from the federal budget for the 2014-2016 period.
On the eve of International Day of Older Persons last year, the research team informed about the results of work on a mobile application - GymCentral. This is a virtual fitness studio that helps senior citizens both to keep fit and find new friends without leaving home. The development of the application is completed, it has already been tested in five countries. In addition to the application, participants of virtual training use a sensor that measures their physical activity. Accurate data about the physical condition of a user allows specialists to find an optimal training program in GymCentral. Currently, the system is at the final stage of implementation, after that the application will be available for download in AppStore and Google Play.
«The research conducted among the older persons in the Tomsk region revealed that the majority of them feel lonely. We have also found out that lonely people have 50 % more health problems. There is a necessity of including older persons in social life: to help them find friends and communication circles. Young people can find friends easily: at university, workplace, parties. However the older a person is, the less is his capacity to go out».
— Fabio Casati, research head of TPU Lifelong Wellbeing Lab
Considerable work is conducted in the area of adaptation of students with disabilities. The University research team headed by Leonid Kapilevich developed an original method for rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy in the form of spastic diplegia and received a patent for this method.
For three years of the research, 100 children from 8 to 12 years participated in the rehabilitation program. Recently, the researchers have conducted a repeat examination of the control group and have recorded positive dynamics in all participants.
The research team moved away from the traditional approach that means to teach children with disabilities to walk the way their peers do. The recent studies revealed that the body of a child with cerebral palsy develops its own unique walking mechanism. The researchers assumed that it would be more effective to develop these features of walking, rather than re-training children. This approach allows children with disabilities to learn to walk as well as their body can. Further research and re-examination of the control group showed positive dynamics in the project participants. The team found these results satisfactory; however, it will continue research.
By 2018 the University will become a pilot site of a project dedicated to the creation of a modern inclusive environment. The researchers decided to find out all issues preventing children with disabilities from continuing their education after school. After this, they can develop solutions at all levels of rehabilitation: medical, psychological, and social.
To solve this problem they need to consider the current environment and facility for work, study, virtual communication, and transportation of people with disabilities. The team found out how much people with disabilities are involved in social and labor activities. During research, the TPU team developed a method for monitoring and assessing the comfort of environment for living, communication, education, and work of people with special needs.
The University plans to train highly qualified specialists who are able to work in a broad interdisciplinary context and understand the interconnection of technological innovations and social changes. These plans require the development of original Master degree programs in Resource Management, and Engineering of Supporting and Rehabilitation Technologies to train engineers able to design socially-oriented products and improving quality of life.