Work-based Learning Toolkit and Partnership Plans

Project ACORN, Ireland

Who are Cliffrun Media & Cliffrun Health?

Cliffrun Health, part of Cliffrun Media (, a solutions company focussed on supporting independent living at home and within the community. Their products encourage better care of patients in the community, social inclusion for seniors, 55+ and those at risk of social isolation and loneliness.

Aside from a team of highly experienced software developers and product designers, Cliffrun Health has an expert team of medical advisors who direct them in best practice and leading-edge product functionality and features to offer to their target market. This Universal Design and User Empathy ensures a higher rate of user adoption.  Studies at Oxford University around IT and the Silver Economy found that many users of technology demonstrate a heightened emotional reaction to technology, with a high number feeling a sense of humiliation and failure when they can’t master and use technology for its purpose.  This access to Big Data has been borne from guidance and interaction from associated medical practitioner partnerships with Mater Hospital Dublin and also through training sessions with early adopters.

What is Cliffrun Health’s Project Acorn Offering?

One of their newest product offerings is Project ACORN. The ACORN is a smart tablet-based solution, purpose-built to solve the challenge of online adoption and to improve the quality of life for the current older generation.  It is creating Digital Citizens in a time where Digital Citizenship keeps communication channels live and responsive.

The main work-based approach for this product offering has been Computational Thinking at a variety of stages in the products design, testing and piloting:

  • breaking large problems down into smaller ones (decomposition)
  • recognising how these relate to problems that have been solved in the past (pattern recognition)
  • setting aside unimportant details (abstraction)
  • identifying and developing the steps that will be necessary to reach a solution (algorithms) and refining these steps (debugging)

Accessing Big Data and through Incidental Learning, observation and testing ACORN offers the advantage over other tablet solutions with its ability to act as a day-to-day specialised tablet tailored exclusively to the needs of the seniors and we create a powerful commercial platform for industry to serve this important market.

From studies and through Bricolage as a learning tool, the common needs for older people are:

  1. Communication
    1. Engagement to assist with personal, social and professional purposes
    2. To be able to send and receive messages, SMS, chats and emails on a secure platform
    3. Video conferencing
    4. One design, look and feel for the platform
  2. Health – this has a two-sided requirement
    1. Whilst the user is in good health it is about fitness and wellbeing
    2. When the user is unwell is for diagnoses and assistance
    3. ACORN offers remote health monitoring from a One Button Touch
  3. Finance – online banking – even at the highest level, the user can check the last 6 transactions on their linked accounts
  4. Security – this addresses vulnerability in real-time responses with an emergency button that can either ping into a closed social group or directly to medical care team
  5. Independence – Age Friendly Alliance studies highlighted that overwhelmingly people want to live for longer in their own homes independently and in safety.
    1. The apps details transport links in their area
    2. Information from local services and authorities

Evolving the ACORN and its adoption?

Team ACORN found that they needed to overcome Tech phobia amongst their target audience.  Staff observed users feeling sick ahead of the training session, the fear of not understanding was significant.  The answer was to make the training have a social feel to it, encouraging users that many felt the same but that in small steps this could be overcome.  If the training offered a sense of comfort and community then the attitudinal shift was positive.

Training also revealed a great variation in starting knowledge.  Some users were adept at tablet usage, ready to engage and use all functionality under offer.  There need for training was less intensive.

The 2016 census revealed that 50% of over 55s had not used the internet within 3 months of the recording of the census nationally.  That 69% of this same demographic had no real experience of internet banking and somewhat suspicious of it.

The ACORN evolved to be simply to view, all in one space, one touch response and secure.


The main issue was one of early adoption and working to create a product that ticked all the boxes of Inform, Interact and Involve successfully.  The partnerships that Cliffrun have across local government, healthcare, technology and fund agencies has meant that ACORN can deal with issues and offer a product that is responsive and fitting for its user group.

Benefits & Opportunities

Cliffrun is Best Practice innovation for the Age Economy, with access to research, technology and key stakeholders, they are poised to pioneer in this growing market well into the future.

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