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The Acceptability of Home Monitoring Technology Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults

Keywords: Acceptance/rejection issues, home monitoring, health monitoring, cognitive device, cognitive orthosis, smart homes, assisted cognition, context-aware design

Overview of Research

For the past several years a growing area of research has been the development of new monitoring technologies for use by older adults in their own homes. These new systems and devices have been designed for a variety of tasks including, supporting older adults with the safe and independent completion of various activities, such as taking medication or self-care tasks, monitoring the health of the occupant, or automatically detecting emergency situations and calling for medical attention. The goal of these new technologies is to support aging-in-place—i.e. to help older adults remain in their own homes for as long as possible. These systems have used various types of monitoring equipment and hardware ranging from simple switches and motion sensors that are used to detect movement in a room, to more sophisticated systems such as computer vision that allows more in-depth information about a person to be determined.

When designing a new product it is imperative to understand the needs and preferences of the intended users. This knowledge/information becomes even more important when designing new technology, especially assistive technology for a population who may have special needs, such as those with a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, research regarding technology for older adults should include the opinions of the baby-boomer population, as they are the older adult population of the future.

This ongoing research project aims to determine what types of technology are considered to be acceptable by older adults and what areas of the home are considered the most acceptable to use these technologies. This information will be used to help define critical design criteria that will guide research being conducted in the area of home monitoring and emergency response systems, particularly regarding concerns about privacy issues, aesthetics and/or ease of use. Two survey-style studies have been conducted by the IATSL group so far. The first approached older adults for their opinions regarding home monitoring technology. The second version of the survey (an improved version of the first) examined home monitoring technology acceptance for both older adults and baby boomers. The current version of the survey queries participants on various topics, such as their current use of home appliances and technologies, their attitudes towards existing home monitoring systems, and about locations within the home (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen) that respondents would be willing to use specific sensing systems.

It is hoped that the information collected through this project will contribute to development of more effective and acceptable monitoring systems through a more seamless interface between older adults and home technologies.

Research Team

Alex Mihailidis, Ph.D. P.Eng. (University of Toronto)

Amy Cockburn , MScOT (University of Toronto)

Catherine Longly, MScOT (University of Toronto)