With the number of senior citizens expected to double in the next decade, according to census data from the Qatar Statistics Authority, ensuring the elderly are catered for is high on the nation’s agenda.

This year, it was also an important topic at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar’s Ibtikar competition. Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s information systems outreach programme, Ibtikar, engages high school students to design creative solutions to tackle important socio-cultural challenges facing the community.

Associate teaching professor of information systems at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, Selma Limam Mansar, said:

We came up with this year’s theme of enhancing elderly life as it is important for us as an institution to take on issues of national importance and we felt that students would be able to relate to the topic. The familiar theme enabled students to create solutions driven by an innovative information technology-based approach.’

Among those challenges is seeking professional care for the elderly, which is uncommon in Qatar’s society. Less than 2% of senior citizens in Qatar are admitted to nursing homes, leaving families and untrained carers, who lack the knowledge and resources, to take the helm.

The Ibtikar winning team, The Solution, from Doha College, addressed one of these issues; loneliness amongst the elderly. Their proposed technology integrated all existing social media apps into one easy-to-use application, enabling the elderly to maintain relationships with family and friends confidently.

Winning team member, Dulshan Jayasekera, from Doha College, said:

The elderly population is rising every year and it was great to create technology that will make a difference to people’s lives. We began the project through conducting some market research that ensured we created something that would be meaningful for our families and for Qatar.’

Twenty-two teams of junior and senior high school students had six weeks to come up with an innovative idea to address the needs of Qatar’s senior citizens or carers. A panel comprising information systems professors, senior students and designers judged the videos students developed to showcase their ideas and selected the top three teams. The participating teams were judged on the creativity and innovation of the idea, the information systems application design, feasibility of the proposed solution, research design and presentation skills.

The application deadline for next fall is 1 March 2014.

For more information, visit Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s website.