Ageing in place and the internet of things – how smart home technologies, the built environment and caregiving intersect

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Journal Article
Visualization in Engineering, 2018, 6 (1)
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© 2018, The Author(s). Smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT), have the potential to play a significant role in enabling older people to age in place. Although there has been substantial development of new applications of sensor technology in the home, this has tended to be tele-health focused, and there has been less work done on the role of IoT and ageing in place that more broadly considers caregiving and the built environment. Research in the field of IoT development and evaluation has recognised a number of challenges and limitations associated with past smart technology developments to support Ageing in Place, calling for user centeredness and better integration with broader systems. Compounding this, research into Ageing in Place and home environments has focused on built environments and largely ignored the impact of technology in the lives of older people staying at home. Recognising a gap in acknowledging the potential impact of technology on Ageing in Place theories, the purpose of this paper is to conceptualise a way of framing smart technology within an Ageing in Place model that acknowledges the interaction of smart technology with the built environment and caregiving and to present a framework for visualising the interactions that take place. A review of Environmental Gerontology model development is undertaken and a new model is presented that recognises the role of technology in Ageing in Place. Based on this model, a template is developed and three case studies of older people’s experiences of smart home technology, home modifications and caregiving are mapped out. These are used to demonstrate “proof of concept” of the relationships put forward in the HAST model and the pre-curser for a template to help people map smart technology and its role in supporting caregiving and ageing in place. This paper’s position is that technologies such as IoT further support the role of the built environment and caregiving to produce outcomes that enable older people to remain autonomous, independent, safe and well at home. However, a number of risks were also identified through the case studies, the issues of maintenance, cost and ease of use, and willingness to use are considerations and potential barriers to the benefits of smart technology.
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