With today’s technology, elderly users can be supported in living independently in their own homes for a prolonged period of time. Commercially available products enable remote monitoring of the state of the user, enhance social networks, and even support elderly citizens in their everyday routines. Although technology seems to be in place to support elderly users, one might question the value of present solutions in terms of solving real user problems such as loneliness and self-efficacy. Furthermore, available products tend to be complex in use and do not relate to the reference framework of elderly users. Consequently, user acceptance of today’s solutions tends to be low.
The Independent@Home project aimed to develop an integrated user interface for task-level control of communication and home automation facilities, instead of a functional based integrated system. The elderly-targeted interface and interaction concepts will be used to create personalized assisted living services that fit into everyday life, in close collaboration with industry and home care service providers (thuiszorginstellingen), and will be extensively tested in users homes.
The figures below show three prototypes of case studies that have been conducted within the project. These three case studies are focused on context-aware products; the product behavior is linked to the context of use. The products all aim to merge into the daily routines of the users, thus their effects can only be studied on a longitudinal basis. These field studies require high efforts of the researchers, both in terms of conducting the field study and in terms of developing a robust and functional prototype.
Flowie is a virtual coach which stimulates elderly people to exercise more [Albaina et al., 2009]. A field test showed that people appreciated the feedback by the display and they enjoyed the interaction with the virtual coach; the system could however be improved by linking the coach to weather conditions. ConnectAll shows a prototype which connects elderly and their informal caregivers. The product has been developed in close collaboration with the elderly and their caregivers. Rather than focusing on supporting the care giving process, the product emphasizes the peace-of-mind by showing day-to-day activities and by facilitating peripheral communication. Snowglobe is a social awareness display, which aims to improve the feeling of social connectedness of elderly people, and thereby contribute to wellbeing. In a field test, participants indicated that they enjoy using the system. It appears to be difficult, however, to measure changes in perceived social connectedness in a quantitative way.
With the Independent@Home research project, the ID-StudioLab aims to develop and provide the proper instruments and methodology to support designers. In the project, funded by SenterNovem IOP- MMI, ID-StudioLab collaborates with industry partners and home care service providers. These have participated in a series of design explorations, in which the design space and the user-centered design process have been explored. At the same time, a service platform has been developed [Vastenburg et al., 2009]; this platform enables designers to make design iterations, even when time is limited and the technical requirements are complex.
For more information, please visit the project website.