Design of Eco-Smart Homes For Elderly Independent Living
Abstract: The aging of the world population has increased dramatically during the past century. The rapid increase of elderly population is putting a heavy strain on healthcare and social welfare. Living conditions and service provision for elderly people have thus become an increasingly hot topic worldwide. In this paper, we address this problem by presenting a conceptual model of an integrated and personalized system for an eco-smart home for elderly independent living. This approach was inspired by an on-going European project, INNOVAGE, which researchers at Blekinge Institute of Technology are currently participating in, and which focuses on regional knowledge clusters for promoting eco-smart homes for elderly independent living. Contrasting the social situation of elderly in China and Europe, we have chosen to focus on a solution for a Swedish context, which takes technical, environmental, social and human-computer interaction aspects into consideration in the design of eco-smart homes for elderly people in Sweden. Three studies have been carried out in order to clarify and explore the main issues at stake. A literature review gave an overview of on-going research and the current state-of-the-art concerning smart homes. The literature review, along with an interview of an expert on solar energy, also gave insights into additional design challenges which are introduced when focusing specifically on eco-smart building solutions. In order to explore and gain a better understanding of the perceived needs and requests of the target group, i.e. the elderly population, we carried out interviews with three experts in healthcare and homecare for the elderly, and also carried out interviews among the elderly in Karlskrona and interviews and a web survey among the elderly in China. As a way of addressing the design challenges of integrating a multitude of diverse, complicated technical systems in a home environment while at the same time high-lighting the need for comprehensive personalized service provision for elderly people, we designed a conceptual model – an exemplar – of an eco-smart home for elderly independent living. The eco-smart home exemplar aims to inspire interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder discussions around innovative design and development of environmentally friendly, comfortable, safe and supportive living for the elderly in the future. Finally, we did an evaluation of the model in two workshops with elderly people in two different towns in Blekinge.
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