Smart Homes for Older People: Positive Aging in a Digital World
2. The Conceptual Framework of Smart Homes
- – Automation: the ability to accommodate automatic devices or perform automatic functions;
- – Multi-functionality: the ability to perform various duties or generate various outcomes;
- – Adaptability: the ability to adjust (or be adjusted) to meet the needs of users;
- – Interactivity: the ability to interact with or allow for interaction among users; and
- – Efficiency: the ability to perform functions in a time-saving, cost-saving and convenient manner.
3. Smart Home Technologies for Older People
Many people prefer to grow old at home, a concept known as aging-in-place. Smart home technology facilitates s aging-in-place by assisting patients with emergency assistance, fall prevention/detection, reminder systems, medication administration and assistance for those with hearing, visual or cognitive impairments (p. 329).
- – Personal alarms via pendants and pull cords to a response centre;
- – Video door entry systems that allow the resident to see who is visiting and to then open the door remotely;
- – Bed and chair occupancy sensors that provide early warning if the resident does not return in determined time;
- – Lighting that can be automatically activated when a resident gets out of bed;
- – Medical monitoring, such as pulse, blood pressure and soiling that can be assessed on site and information forwarded appropriately; and
- – Increased use of robotics to assist around the house.
4.1. Financial Accessibility
4.2. Technical Accessibility
4.3. Psychological Accessibility
- – Is the cost of the autonomy afforded by smart homes social isolation?
- – How can the balance between independence and companionship be struck?
- – Will vulnerable people understand the nature of the technologies in smart homes, and can we be sure that they are able to consent to their use?
- – Who should control the data generated by systems that monitor people’s movements and track their physical wellbeing (p.7)?
5. Implications and Recommendations
- Smart homes should be introduced in planning residences for older people with careful considerations of their strengths and potential risks. Importantly, older users need to be assured that any potential problems will be assessed, risks managed and feedback valued .
- Technical and psychological accessibility can be addressed by fully investigating the views and needs of older people when implementing smart homes as spaces for aging in place. Close consultations with potential users need to take place before, during and after the construction of smart homes. The needs of older users can change during this process and should be accommodated so that a smart house can become a smart home (See for example ).
- Financial accessibility or affordability should be considered. There is little point in building a smart home which is beyond the reach of its potential users. Suggestions made by The Aged and Community Services of Australia  provide some guidance for developing policy in this area when they recommend:
- Stronger and better directed funding for public and non-profit housing;
- A new incentive for private investment in low rent housing;
- Expansion of the capability and contribution of the non-profit housing sector;
- Better provision of residential infrastructure in high growth areas (p. 11).
- As acknowledged by technologists, “vulnerable users may not understand what the technologies they use can and cannot do—most ethical codes for computer development assume that users are knowledgeable and sophisticated in their use of computer technologies” , it is recommended that some aspects of informative discussions and training should include not only the users but also their immediate social networks such as family members, friends (p. 13) and service providers.
- A high level of public engagement associated with the introduction of smart homes can help inform the community and garner support.
- Further research is needed around the technical and psychological accessibility to smart home technology for older users, the perceptions of caregivers, because of their direct and indirect involvement in long-term care provision.
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Lê, Q.; Nguyen, H.B.; Barnett, T. Smart Homes for Older People: Positive Aging in a Digital World. Future Internet 2012, 4, 607-617. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi4020607
Lê Q, Nguyen HB, Barnett T. Smart Homes for Older People: Positive Aging in a Digital World. Future Internet. 2012; 4(2):607-617. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi4020607Chicago/Turabian Style
Lê, Quynh, Hoang Boi Nguyen, and Tony Barnett. 2012. "Smart Homes for Older People: Positive Aging in a Digital World" Future Internet 4, no. 2: 607-617. https://doi.org/10.3390/fi4020607