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UCL start-up RecommendMe targets social isolation

20 February 2017

RecommendMe is a fast-growing UCL start-up which aims to improve the lives of older people by helping them to become more active and better connected with their local community. Its founders created a digital platform that gives details of activities – from craft clubs to computer workshops and exercise classes – which are aimed at older residents.

It will also offer recommendations of activities based on a user’s previous choices.

After a successful launch in UCL’s home borough of Camden, there are plans to roll it out to other boroughs in London. Nearly 3,000 events have been posted so far on RecommendMe’s database.

“For many people life changes dramatically when they retire. It is easy to fall into the trap of physical inactivity. Coupled with social isolation, this can result in a real impact on physical and psychological wellbeing,” said Georgina Knock, chief operating officer of RecommendMe, who recently graduated after studying for MSc Health Psychology at UCL.

RecommendMe is run from BaseKX, UCL’s new incubator and enterprise start-up space in King’s Cross, London.

It was set up by:

Alex Matei – PhD Student at UCL. Research focused on Software Engineering for Healthcare. Digital Health Manager at Nuffield Health.

David Greenberg – Audiological clinician with a PhD in Auditory Neuroscience at UCL.

Navaz Davoodian – MArch PhD MSLL, UCL Senior Research Associate and Teaching Fellow in Light & Lighting. UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering

Tarek Ahmed - PhD Student, NanotechnologyBiophysicsand Tissue Engineering at UCL

“RecommendMe shows how UCL alumni can use their expertise and entrepreneurial spirit to make a difference to the lives of older people in London. This is a project that brought together alumni across several disciplines to find a solution to help people get out and about and stay healthier for longer,” said Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise).

people learning how to use iPads

An important focus of the project is to improve older people’s digital skills. RecommendMe runs Tech Tea Parties to introduce older people to new digital skills. They can come along to a relaxing environment (with lots of tea and cakes, plus fruit!) and learn how to use iPads as well as explore Skype and Facebook.

The start-up began as a concept in 2013 at The Festival of Ageing at UCL. The festival brought together individuals spanning the technology and research community at UCL to tackle the challenge of healthy ageing and social isolation.

The concept of using technology to empower older adults was developed over the course of a year, taking into account feedback from residents and stakeholders within Camden.

RecommendMe won the UCL Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing Ageing Research Prize Workshop. The start-up also received UCL Bright Ideas Award which supports student entrepreneurs with seed funding for their projects.

In 2015, RecommendMe with Age UK Camden won Big Lottery funding to trial the platform in the Ageing Better in Camden project.

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