Written by: Lena Brandl
36 months, nine consortium partners, three countries, one common goal: supporting older adults after spousal bereavement. Loss is a common occurrence in life and grief is a normal and healthy reaction to loss. Yet, grief is overwhelming at times and one can find oneself feeling lost. Together with eight international partners in Portugal, Switzerland and in the Netherlands, RRD has spent the last three years developing an online service for older mourners to support them in processing the loss of their partner.
It has been an exciting journey, including many many hours discussing, creating and evaluating, together with older adults, grief professionals and our fellow consortium partners.
At DOMUSDELA, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, the consortium of AAL project LEAVES (Project No. AAL-2019-6-168-CP) gathered to streamline its recent efforts one final time, including:
- discussing the progress of the evaluation study of LEAVES in Switzerland;
- documenting the insights from the evaluation studies conducted in Portugal and the Netherlands in the second half of 2022 and preparing these results for (scientific) publication; and
- finalizing a business case for future exploitation of the LEAVES intervention for spousal bereavement.
We also took some time to look back to where LEAVES began, including:
- how we transformed a purely text-based grief intervention to a more dynamic, dialogue-based format, combined with readings, writing exercises and activity suggestions to foster self-care;
- How we developed an algorithm to detect and communicate when LEAVES users might be better off involving offline support in their grieving process; and
- how Luisa, our initial peer virtual coach for LEAVES, became Sun, the final sun-shaped virtual coach in the service. The virtual coach introduces the content of the application to LEAVES-users. During the project, we learned that for some older adults a virtual coach designed as a peer (an older adult who has lost their partner) is confusing. Some older adults who participated in early prototype tests of LEAVES were misled to think that Luisa is a real person which is why we ultimately abandoned the idea of a peer virtual coach.
AAL project LEAVES has entered its final stage of reporting and tying up loose ends and RRD fondly looks back to three years of fruitful collaboration with our LEAVES consortium partners. Now we look ahead to the final review of the project in April 2023.
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