Siel Bleu and SenseSchool partner up to offer elderly people greater autonomy


This winter, non-profit organisations Siel Bleu, which provides adapted physical activity for the elderly, and SenseSchool, a social enterprise born in the MakeSense community which designs innovative programs for students to learn by solving concrete social and environmental challenges, partnered up to invent prototypes that will help improve Siel Bleu’s activities.


Siel Bleu is a non-profit organisation that helps the elderly remain active, and an important partner of the Danone Ecosystem Fund, with three innovative projects combining nutrition and adapted physical activity launched in France, Ireland and Spain in co-creation with Medical subidiaries of Danone. Founded in 1997 in Strasbourg by Jean-Daniel Muller and Jean-Michel Ricard, it works to tackle the problem of dependency and consolidate intergenerational social interaction through physical activity. It relies on a technique called APA (Adapted Physical Activity), which develops low-cost sports programmes adapted to the elderly, people with disabilities and those with chronic illnesses.

Siel Bleu now works with 350 employees across more than 2,000 care institutions, and helps 70,000 people each week.

A recent study by McKinsey established that Siel Bleu could help save the French government nearly 60 billion euros over the course of the next eight years. But it has one problem: it lacks adequate and adapted exercise tools to work with the elderly. At least it did, until recently…


How social innovation can be useful to all


To solve this issue, Siel Bleu turned to social innovation and co-creation, through a partnership with SenseSchool. SenseSchool is a social business founded by two former business students, Marine Plossu and Caroline Delboy. Its mission is to offer students from different backgrounds the opportunity to learn and innovate while solving societal issues. The idea is to have them discover social innovation in a very practical way, thanks to concrete experience that harnesses their competencies and teaches them a lot at the same time. To address Siel Bleu’s issue, the “Sense Academy” brought together eight students (with skills in design, business, engineering, etc.). Together, they participated in eight workshops over a three month period to design six prototypes for Siel Bleu to use in their sports sessions. (To learn more about the process, watch this video).

These simple objects have been devised to help the elderly improve their balance, their strength and their physical autonomy in general. In March, once the project was complete, the objects were tested during an APA session. As Jean-Michel Ricard, CEO of Siel Bleu, said:

The objects prototyped by the Sense Academy team will help us considerably improve the quality of life elderly people experience on an everyday basis.

The project is now being incubated within Siel Bleu, and the founders have set a goal to start producing the six objects within two years. This first edition of the Sense Academy is a shining example of how social innovation can be useful to all: the students who have learned plenty, the organisation which can now take its activity a step further, and the elderly whose exercise facilities have been improved.

Photo © Shutterstock /  wavebreakmedia

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