Europe is being severely challenged by the ageing of the population, and although for well over a decade now is looking for strategies to effectively increase the labour force participation of older workers and reduce the rates of early retirement and labour market exit, the unemployment amongst older people remains particularly high, with the EU-28 employment rate of 55-64 year olds reaching only 55.3% by 2016. Ageing is a gradual process and there is no definition of when someone becomes an “older worker”, but many physical changes associated with ageing including decline in vision, hearing and psychomotor coordination are estimated to start as early as the age of 50. Furthermore, health chronic conditions prevalence in case of people aged 50+ is very high, with every second person having hypertension and/or some other chronic disease, and multimorbidity being very common among people aged 65+ (prevalence rates estimated as high as 65%). It is worth noting that ill health incapacity is a major cause of labour market exit before the age of 60.
The SmartWork project builds a Worker-Centric AI System for work ability sustainability, which integrates unobtrusive sensing and modelling of the worker state with a suite of novel services for context and worker-aware adaptive work support. The unobtrusive and pervasive monitoring of health, behaviour, cognitive and emotional status of the worker enables the functional and cognitive decline risk assessment. The holistic approach for work ability modelling captures the attitudes and abilities of the ageing worker and enables decision support for personalized interventions for maintenance/improvement of the work ability. The evolving work requirements are translated into required abilities and capabilities (work ability model), and the adaptive work environment supports the older office worker with optimized services for on-the-fly work flexibility coordination, seamless transfer of the work environment between different devices and different environments, and on-demand personalized training.
The goals of the SmartWork project focused on addressing the challenges faced by office workers as they age, and their employers, in a holistic way by implementing and validating real work environments in an ICT-enabled framework integrating discrete and ubiquitous ICT tools and services that support an age-friendly work and living environment:
• To achieve unobtrusive sensing and modelling of the worker state;
• To implement a novel smartwork services suite for the context and worker-aware adaptive work support;
• To co-create and evaluate the smartwork system with the active engagement of the end users in real world settings, with special attention to ethics, privacy and security.