Older people exercising

Learning disability charity Hft is partnering with start-up Tendertec on a £1.8m project to encourage sustainable physical activity for under-represented groups, including people aged 55 and over, currently not engaging with the digital fitness market.

The support service, known as FitBees, will combine home sensors and wearable technologies with motivational encouragement and community connections to support activity.

Tendertec, the AI start-up behind the connected care platform Hestia, which enables the remote monitoring of daily living activities of people with carers, announced today that it had secured a grant of £1.4M from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge. This grant will go towards the overall project cost of developing FitBees.

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Other partners in the project include KYMIRA, a company producing patented smart garments that provide biomechanical assessment of the lower extremities, the Community Housing Group and the University of the West of England.

The funding will be used to support the development of FitBees and has a strong user-centred design process to ensure that Fitbees meets the needs of its customers.

Today, more than 40 per cent of people aged 55 and over are inactive, costing the NHS almost £100m annually. Inactivity is most acute across under-represented groups, including those with learning disabilities, who are not engaging, physically or digitally, with a market that focuses more on those who are already motivated to be active.

The FitBees service addresses this significant, and important, market gap. Every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for the UK economy and society. FitBees aims to make sure that investment on digital fitness support reaches those who need it most.

“People with learning disabilities often struggle to access mainstream online platforms,” says Emma Nichols, Personalised Technology Manager at Hft. “There is a need for more platforms like FitBees that are easy to use and provide people with learning disabilities with the same opportunities as everyone else. We are really excited to be part of such an innovative and inclusive project where the people we support are playing a central role in the development Fitbees.”

Hft is working with 10 people it supports who will try the technology, and provide feedback and suggestions to learn what works and what doesn’t. “We need to understand more about people’s daily routines and how Fitbees might help people we support to be more active and more connected, ultimately becoming healthier and happier,” says Emma.

Dr Afroditi Konidari, CEO and Co-Founder at Tendertec, adds: “We are honoured to be leading a consortium of partners that have the skills, experience and dedication to help under-represented groups overcome challenges to becoming more physically active.

“In the post-pandemic era, we need to find new ways to support people aged 55+, especially those feeling marginalised, to become and remain physically active and socially connected. We are working closely with our consortium to bring a game-changing product into the digital fitness market.”

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Its services range from supported living to residential care. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities.

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