Skip to main content

Using Tech to improve older people’s health and wellbeing in west Belfast

Date: 21 Aug 2023

Category: Digital Innovation

Lord Mayor with Upper Springfield Development Trust Project Manager Arder Carson and Civic Dollars CEO Stephen McPeake

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy met with Upper Springfield Development Trust Healthy Ageing participants and Civic Dollars today to find out how people are earning a free Translink day pass or a cup of coffee for time spent in their local park.

People can earn rewards by spending time in parks, open spaces, heritage, and conservation zones around Belfast. Once Civic Dollars are earned, they can be traded for discounted or free services, community classes, or donated to local community groups and charities.

First piloted by Belfast City Council in 2021 during lockdown, the app was funded through the council’s ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project, part of the Smart Belfast programme, exploring how data and innovative technologies can create smart solutions for urban challenges and improve city services.

Since the launch of the Civic Dollars app, over 6,100 hours of additional footfall has been recorded in Belfast parks, with this data now being used to consider how to better use city spaces, promote local attractions, increase physical activity, change behaviours, encourage switches to multi-modal transportation, and improve mental wellbeing.

On the success of the pilot, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy said: “We first launched Civic Dollars on the Connswater Community Greenway as part of our Smart Belfast programme, supporting innovators to trial their prototype. It’s great to see that Stephen McPeake’s innovative app is now being rolled out to benefit many more people and communities.

“Innovation is in our DNA in Belfast. We also place great importance on community, on caring for people – and for our planet, so it’s fantastic to see Civic Dollars’ success – it proves that tech really can be for good.” 

Civic Dollars has since partnered with the Upper Springfield Development Trust to deliver a one-year Healthy Ageing Small Business Research Initiative Project, funded by the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, and delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.

The project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of older people living in west Belfast by using the Civic Dollars app to encourage participants to spend more time in parks and open spaces whilst giving them access to tailored rewards that will contribute to health and wellbeing outcomes.

Since the start of the project, over 700 people in west Belfast have signed up to the app, earning rewards, while looking after their health and wellbeing.

Arder Carson, Project Manager for the Upper Springfield Development Trust said: “We want to work to ensure that our older residents’ years are spent in good health, so it’s been exciting to see the positive uptake of the app and project in the west Belfast community. People are improving their physical fitness and eating more healthily, which is contributing to better mental health and well-being. We’ve also seen a big reduction in isolation and loneliness amongst the participants which has been really encouraging, and we look forward to even more people joining the project.”

Civic Dollars CEO, Stephen McPeake said: “Technology has the power to unlock societal challenges, and Civic Dollars is doing just that by supporting improved outcomes across physical, mental, and environmental wellbeing.

“The benefits of good physical and mental health are well documented, and through the app, we set out to deliver something that would support and incentivise individuals and communities to improve their wellbeing.

“By creating an inclusive platform, we are supporting a positive approach that can demonstrate the power of small steps leading to tangible benefits, both in the rewards the app provides and ultimately, the benefits to wellbeing. “

The Civic Dollars app can be downloaded and used for free through Google Play and the Apple App Store.


Read aloud icon Read aloud