Furthermore, taking into consideration the rapid pace at which technology develops while ensuring all citizens in society are represented, the coining and positing of this term ‘Concept of Age-friendly Smart Ecologies (CASE)’ offers a myriad of actors the flexibility to adapt and future proof respective environments, where necessary.
6. The central hub represents the citizens in both our current and future societies. Acknowledging the needs of citizens needs to remain central in ensuring that all that is offered, through various interactions within respective environments and operating systems, and with the use of products, has the potential to offer positive experiences for all—both young and old citizens. Furthermore, it is intended within the inner hub that there will be support afforded via human interventions and supportive networks and systems to those in need.
For example, in a city, this diagram represents a district or a suburb depending on the size of each of the eight hubs: 1. Transport, 2. Housing, 3. Civic participation and employment, 4. Respect and social inclusion, 5. Social Participation, 6. Communication and information, 7. Community support and health services, and 8. Outdoor spaces and buildings.
The size of each of these hubs or domains may vary based on the positive and negative impacts indicative within each district or suburb. Similarly, this notion could be adapted and scaled up to reflect municipalities or provincial regions within countries. Therefore, the greater is the hub associated to one of these eight domains, the greater is the positivity or service(s) offered (e.g., public transport, ICT infrastructure, health service provision etc.). Alternatively, the smaller the hub, the lesser or negativity of services are afforded.
In the following section, we describe a series of scenarios and provide solutions based on point 4 of the CASE framework.
7.1. Design Hacks, Technology, and IoT Solutions
In this section, we will revisit the different scenarios described in the previous section and suggest suitable solutions.
Regarding scenario 1, the CASE framework accommodates the personal interactions that everyone has, in this instance, in conjunction with other family members (e.g., partner to partner, parent to children and them to their parents). In both a pre-and-post-pandemic society, the relationship between the user, technology, and the environments involves lived experiences within the eight domains. However, the new CASE framework central quadrants provide an insight into potential and specific interactions and touchpoints to these domains.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: As this family has not experienced aging, it may seem strange to explore age-friendly environments. However, the living spaces we reside in, both currently and in the future, may be modular or adaptable spaces that can consider areas for collective calm—they include features based on soundproofing and adequate sensory ambience, which in turn can encourage relaxation and to recharge oneself while facing the challenges of living through both a contemporary and post-pandemic society. Additionally, all family members can benefit from these spaces and there can be a shared space too, in addition to family members retreating to their bedrooms. Growing up in this type of space, children may have the opportunity to perceive this space as a form of relaxation as a part of a daily ritual, while learning valuable means to relax in stressful or worrying times.
The Age-friendly Physical Space offers this family the option of outdoor sharing or single activities, such as walking, canoeing, and enjoying the experience of time surrounded by nature. However, beyond these experiences, life in both a contemporary and post-pandemic society continues to have the additional requirements, such as shopping, waste, and health management.
This brings to the fore the possibility of sustainability and environmental features. It is apparent that people’s view on fast fashion has changed to exploring ‘slow fashion’ or repurposing clothing, furniture, and sharing economies [167
]. Zoe’s interest in the arts and crafts scene endorses this and creates an opportunity to create items for the home, as gifts, or garments to wear. ‘Crafting’ is a hobby that is shared and interweaves generations, and an age-friendly community network of crafters was visited pre-pandemic [158
]. Networks such as this can reopen in a post-pandemic society. However, visitors will be presented with hygiene and virus management challenges, ensuring each member is protected. To overcome this, there is the possibility of ensuring that materials are maintained and not shared, unless appropriately sanitized. These community craft times could perhaps provide greater comfort and opportunity for parents such as Zoe to attend alone or encourage a smaller group of children to explore various art-and-craft activities. There is also the possibility of intergenerational activities, whereby similar to the old ‘punch and Judy’ model, the players are behind the scenes and the audience can safely socially distance in new open spaces in towns, cities, or parks.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space is an exciting space to speculate a post-pandemic society. The possible solutions both encourage and include interactions with people and families with mobility or physical limitation. Relating to scenario one, the solution could offer interactive augmented reality spaces for education and play time for Johan and Eva. These spaces could be pods similar to how children played in a pre-pandemic society, whereby locations such as ball pit, play zones or trampolines and playgrounds facilitated free play.
Technology and Associated ICTs: this scenario considers the competencies of both Frederick and Zoe, who have busy lives, careers, and personal ambitions. In this case, it is imperative that various service systems, for example, health, energy, and home/banking management, can operate in a usable, friendly efficient way. Service providers have adapted greatly by increasing offerings, such as online shopping for groceries or financial transactions becoming increasingly contactless payment. Considering the post-pandemic world, some of these new behaviors will be maintained (e.g., contactless payment, increased from £30 to £45 in the UK). However, new forms of behavior, such as hybrid working—encompassing greater affordances and approaches to work from home—will rely on existing and innovative technologies to be accessible, and not being restricted due to network or server issues and difficulties.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: The intergenerational family outlined in this paper has multiple needs for the current living environment they share. In a post-pandemic society, it is apparent that there is going to more changes and it is likely that Gareth and Sabine will seek to move home, while Heidi is anticipating her return to college in the autumn or experience a mix of online and face-to-face teaching.
The future experiences for Gareth and Sabine are normal events for most families as they grow. In a post-pandemic society, should a request for ‘shielding’ or ‘cocooning’ be advised, they may also include home adaptability or receive new responsibilities of care and support. Perhaps, not so much that Arthur and Mabel isolate, but for keyworkers such as Alison and Stuart to be reassured that they are able to continue their work, yet taking into account that they will not present any greater risk to the members of their own home environment.
It is suggested that perhaps an entry point is agreed in the home with a specific space for sanitizing, undressing, and showering to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable members of their own household. Sabine appears to be at home to provide care and support, but this may change as the baby is born and how this will affect the family dynamic and use of comfort and spaces is unknown.
As per scenario 1, one solution could be to live in a modular housing development/unit, which in turn could support this family to allow for temporary move-ins (Gareth and Sabine) or connected living spaces that present a gathering opportunity or shielding for Arthur and Mabel.
The Age-friendly Physical Space: Accessibility has been noted as a feature within the domains of the age-friendly network (outdoor spaces and buildings). Health conditions and lifespan events (e.g., giving birth) can impact how we move from one location to another.
Currently, and during the lockdown in the UK and Ireland, public transport was restricted because of limitations on the numbers of passengers or services operating. As the months continued, users of public transport had to comply with governmental legislation relating to facemasks. Should a person wish to use public transport, they are required to wear a facemask. In a post-pandemic society, envisioning how society will behave could afford municipalities, governments, academics the opportunity to purvey alternative forms of transport/hubs. For example, the use of autonomous vehicles, bicycles programs (as found in Copenhagen) or shared transport networks could prove to be beneficial, because this would facilitate health and wellbeing, physical activity, and reduce the risk of any further contagion.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space can have a positive impact on connected health developments, such as interactive spaces between healthcare professionals or care workers and patients such as Mabel and Arthur. Likewise, additional connectedness could be experienced from within the home ecosystem by differing technologies, such as virtual assistants, alert systems, or apps accessible and even controlled remotely via a smartphone. This, in turn, would offer reassurance to family members if a vulnerable family member is alone, or should assistance be required, they can respond quickly.
Technology and Associated ICTs can be associated and connected to both healthcare and transport hubs and links, which, in turn, could provide supportive networks that facilitate and enable the autonomy and responsibility of lifestyle and independence. The monitoring of symptoms and testing facilitated by track-and-trace capabilities during the pandemic can be potentially done in a post-pandemic society. Furthermore, the integration of Blockchain and AI capabilities has the potential to afford healthcare providers, municipalities, business, and citizens the opportunity to engage both directly and indirectly within respective ecosystems. Additionally, promotions or campaigns across various modes of digital devices, social media platforms, and physical spaces (e.g., advertisement boards) can assist in reminding citizens to maintain regular hygiene practices, which, in turn, may reduce the opportunity of further susceptibility in a post-pandemic society. The recent progress made in Africa whereby the elimination of polio has progressed [169
] is a good example of this.
Scenario #3 explores the activism conducted by people within communities to be supportive and helpful to those with needs such as those ‘shielding’ or in fact frontline workers who may have very little personal time to refresh.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: For an individual living alone or deemed vulnerable, they may still have requirements and needs that must be supported by neighbors or people within the community. Apps or simply creating a WhatsApp/phone group that supports images, videos/video conferencing, and voice share could continue to assist vulnerable people in a post-pandemic society. Likewise, the mobilization of smaller factories responded rapidly to the call for clothing to be worn by frontline workers should be maintained as a network that could be mobilized, should there be another outbreak of COVID-19 or another coronavirus/ emergency.
The Age-friendly Physical Space: Community ‘hubs’ could be encouraged and implemented by either utilizing existing structures such as community halls or creating new purpose built hubs, which, in turn, could provide leisure activities and work spaces, but also double up as an emergency area, should similar pandemics occur in the future.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space: Virtual and interactive opportunities could be made possible by applying AR in conjunction with social media and communication platforms, to enable and ensure group activities, as well as the delivery of education, health, and business meetings, are continued. This would be fruitful because if all members of the respective outlets are not available to attend in person, they can still attend virtually.
Technology and Associated ICTs can be implemented in community and connected activities to enable reliance on existing hardware and devices such as mobile phones and computer applications, which, in turn, will support contacts and updates to mobilize or stand down, should there be emergencies in the future. One prospective solution is to create a volunteer registry, which would facilitate and reassure each user/member of the security of their information and personal details; one that is transparent but yet, easily accessible via instant messaging, to ensure accessibility for all.
The Age-friendly Living Environment relates to age-in-place [170
] and is perceived as a beneficial approach to aging in later life, with a view to building on and sharing positive aging experiences [159
Living independently highlights the opportunity to explore the home environment with a view on accessibility, which, in turn, could be easily adaptable, if necessary. Furthermore, new homes could be built with the view for positive and successful age-in-place, whereby doorways are wheelchair-friendly, light switches are placed at an accessible height, rather than at a height for a person standing up. Staircases and landings on the first floor are to be of suitable width, which enables wheelchair access and/or mechanical stairlifts to successfully transfer an individual from the ground floor without ruining the decoration. These approaches could be considered by William and his wife – as discussed in Case Study C. Luckily, there are building recommendations that support accessible a universal design in new builds, and retro fitting grants to adapt homes, typically after a need (e.g., home access ramps) is identified, can be made available. Additionally, we would suggest further features that support autonomy and security in the home. Whether from the standpoint of the pandemic or a post-pandemic society, the consideration of built environments to support a form of socializing but still maintain shielding could be explored in future developments [149
]. Finally, what has been highlighted here is the essence of greater opportunities for the construction industry, developers, planners, architects, and academics in the fields of gerontology, gerontechnology, social sciences, and HCI. This could take a co-creation, co-design, and universal design approach to understanding the needs, challenges, issues, experiences, as well as positives of this type of living and development [62
The Age-friendly Physical Space: Maintaining social connections appears to be a significant factor for older adults living independently and who are ageing without children (AWOC) [29
]. This can be emphasized in a post-pandemic society by more activities that can be conducted in public spaces, such as green spaces, streets, community hubs, or gyms. Additionally, there could be the option for intergenerational spaces, which, in turn, could cater to all ages; they could have giant chess, boule, and table tennis tables. Implementing sensory spaces could afford residents and citizens the opportunity to relax outdoors, whereby seating is surrounded by different sounds, images, and touch and scent of the flora and fauna within the space. These spaces would include energizing areas that capture sunshine and places that are more serene and shaded.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space relates to various activities and energy we have, and which can change during the aging process. We may develop new health conditions (e.g., arthritis) or experience more severe and impactful diseases, such as a stroke or a heart problem. Recuperation and recovery programs in a post-pandemic society may be a feature of a new connected health service, and interactive screenings and appointments could be considered by municipalities or local health care providers.
Technology and Associated ICTs relates to maintaining one’s independence as we age and move forward in a post-pandemic society, while creating new opportunities to explore robotic assistive devices that can enhance the independence and autonomy of an individual. IoTs and wearable technologies can provide reassurance (e.g., monitoring or alerts to falls, or sudden increase in body temperature) to neighbors, family members, and friends of the individual. These types of sensors and devices can also relate to alternative, new connected health programs that includes relevant professional and trusted members of an older adults’ network (e.g., support network, health professionals, family, friends etc.). Blockchain and AI technologies have the potential to offer this type of service delivery, with focus on data privacy and security.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: This scenario is similar to intergenerational living [62
] and their respective needs. However, unlike an intergenerational family, bonds may not be emotionally strong. An example of this could relate to the care assistant or nurse, who choose to be a live-in, and who may also still be juggling her own family responsibilities, albeit remotely. Therefore, the resident/care home may require the assurance of staff calm spaces, where they can adequately support social interactions with other staff members or likewise have zones of relaxation and calm, where energies can be renewed.
The Age-friendly Physical Space, from a post-pandemic standpoint associated to residents of care homes, may renew shopping trips or outings that involve groups or sometimes outings with family that were enjoyed in a pre-pandemic society.
It is apparent that while there is no vaccine for COVID-19, it is not yet stated how long society will be continuing with differing variations of lockdowns and legislation. Therefore, wearing facemasks and using hand sanitization will become integral in day-to-day rituals (e.g., going into a grocery store, touching public artifacts, etc.).When we consider some aging factors, such as reduced hearing, vision, and ambulation, facemasks may present a challenge, not just in how they are worn, but also potentially interfering with hearing aids and/or glasses. Additionally, a facemask may also have an impact on the proprioception and/or spatial awareness of a person within the physical space, and this in turn may lead to them losing their balance and falling/tripping over. In turn, this requires assurances that features such as lighting or access is optimized to cater for all abilities and citizens.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space is important for the residents and staff of residential facilities and care homes. Technology for some of these facilities may be limited, coupled with the digital skills/literacy of the staff. However, technology and appropriate broadband networks are needed to ensure that features such as video calls or classes can still be conducted and experienced via communication platforms, which also facilitate a virtual space to socialize and engage with community activities, such as attending church services, as demonstrated in Case Study D, Section 5.1.4
Technology and Associated ICTs can assist residents and staff in care homes with maintaining social and familial connections by taking a deep dive into technology and using the various features accessible in different social media and communication platforms, such as video calling, looking at photographs, listening and watching music and television programs, as well as communicating via email. Voice assistants may be helpful to provide social engagements for residents who are alone and may need to alert a member of staff for assistance. Additionally, with virtual assistants, there is the potential to be connected to wearable devices, which may also offer a feeling of safety to the resident and their family members.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: For Carl, who is a healthy and fit person, this environment in both a contemporary and post-pandemic society may afford greater opportunities to enhance interactions that have been ‘held back’ due to geographic distances, detached meetings, and social outings.
The living environment has at times offered little comfort to people like Carl, who experience loneliness and social isolation. A suggested enhancement to the living environment would be greater accessibility on a long-term lease, which, in turn, would facilitate someone like Carl to feel ‘at home’ or ‘in place’. The possibility to ‘embed’ or feel at home could build and enhance confidence to pursue more robust friendships or social networking opportunities through the living and/or communal spaces within these new environments. There might be a choice to have a ‘pet’ that does not require full responsibility of one person but offering a ‘pet share’ plan could enhance further social interactions with the partners of the pet.
The Age-friendly Physical Space lends itself to home working pods that are not coffee houses or linked with commercial brokers, but instead could be developed in a way that could retrofit unused or redundant spaces in localities. This type of example could work for neighbors who may be working from home, but could then congregate in a mimicked work environment, a ‘Work-Gym’. Furthermore, this concept may also encourage new friendships, relationships, and broaden social networks.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space could support working from any geographical location; for Carl, this could mean he remains living in his hometown, surrounded by all things familiar, whilst working remotely, connecting through digital applications to engage in meetings or updates regarding projects or team collaborations. Alternatively, should Carl choose to work or relocate to a new geographical location, he could mirror certain behaviors, experiences, and views from home through ambient and responsive AR scenarios.
Technology and Associated ICTs can include virtual assistants and social robotic pets to enhance one’s quality of living experience although it would not be a replacement for face-to-face contact. This proposal encourages a ‘kit’ whereby you build and include your preferences to personalize the type of home you wish, and the robotic pet could, for example, be a replica of a childhood pet. The benefits to people like Carl are the freedom to still take trips or visits to his hometown without planning or having the responsibility to find a suitable pet sitter or the cost of kennels.
The Age-friendly Living Environment: More so than ever, people have experienced various impacts and difficulties during COVID-19. Family life can be challenging during normal times and it is apparent how Darren and Roberta rely on social scaffolding to enable a positive quality of life, socializing and interacting with friends and members of the community.
The work responsibilities Darren has impacts on Roberta’s ability to make sense of day-to-day family living and time management. Additional support to the family could be further respite care for James, which allows for moments of refresh for Roberta, particularly when Darren is away. However, during the pandemic, this opportunity may not be possible. However, as James grows up and his needs become more complex, a respite facility may afford all family members the opportunity to relax. Furthermore, identifying appropriate networks within their existing social and familial networks and organizations could afford Roberta the opportunity to take time out for a walk in the green space close to their home and enjoy some time with their daughter Amalie before she starts high school. One of the support networks could assist by taking over homeschooling duty with James. This system could perhaps be encouraged and reversed during term time (e.g., one-to-one time with James, while a member of the support network homeschools Amalie).
The Age-friendly Physical Space: During the initial lockdown in the UK, there was a regular/weekly clap for frontline workers every Thursday evening at 7 pm. This was an important action to acknowledge all those citizens who were and continue to work on the frontline (e.g., medical professionals, health and social care providers, etc.) who are compromising their own health, their time with family, and personal lives to support those who fell ill.
Perhaps in a post-pandemic society, there could a way we should look at ways of remembering to take time to value those close to us and state it in a subtle way. Instead of purchasing items of ‘stuff’, it could simply be a gesture that is on a physical living space in a neighborhood. A thank you wall/park/space might work, whereby an assigned space affords the provision to allow for blocks or ornaments to be attached to this space to be purchased on behalf of someone by another person. This space would be accessible to all and could be shared and offer a space for reflection, while focusing on the gratitude for those individuals and keyworkers who served their communities during this time. This essentially could be a funded arts project that could be updated over time but is always changing and reflective of where life might be at that given time.
The Age-friendly Virtual Space could offer families and couples such as Darren and Roberta a specific space to spend some quality time together, while also being connected to specific health technologies. This, in turn, would allow healthcare professionals, patients, and family members to interact and share progress or prognosis updates securely, while not necessarily being together in any specific location. Sharing of information would be facilitated via the implementation of Blockchain and AI solutions, and securely accessed via an App and/or via a communications platform, or virtual assistant. Additionally, wearable devices and analytics could offer efficient updates and insights in real-time for James’ parents, and his healthcare team. The design outcomes that are desirable in this prospective solution relate to data security, comfort, and ease of use for all key people involved in the health, wellbeing, and service delivery for James.
Technology and Associated ICTs: Accessibility and ease of use of service systems are necessary aspects to gain fully functioning optimization. Technology requirements would need to be supported on secure networks (e.g., via Blockchain) and future-proofed to ensure that the lifespan of the design for patients such as James is maintained and updated, where necessary. Additionally, the family could engage and manually update the system with personal additions/observations to the health system ‘App’, thereby allowing for random or surprise changes to James’ prognosis to be captured. If Darren is away with work, he can still access, view, or add thoughts relating to the information presented on the App.
In summary, this section has provided possible solutions to the differing scenarios presented in Section 6
and relates to the four quadrants of the CASE
framework. These theoretical solutions afford readers the opportunity envisage how different technological solutions could be implemented into different ecosystems.
In the following section, we discuss the work presented in this paper and provide our recommendations, strengths, and limitations.