Sympathetic Devices: Communication Technologies for Inclusion

Date of Publication: 
2011 March

Encouraging wellness at home is a necessary step in alleviating the burden of an increasing number of older adults on the health care system and can also provide a vehicle for promoting independence and quality of life among older adults. However, aging at home comes with its own challenges, one of which is depression caused by isolation, a serious condition related to healthy aging and outcomes affecting a large number of older adults. Addressing communication needs across housing options might bring us closer to understanding and preventing social isolation and loneliness among older adults. This article presents an iterative process of applied within-subjects survey and action research studies for designing communication technologies—sympathetic devices for older adults living independently. Emphasis and discussion is given to describing the design process of the sympathetic devices. Several concepts and products were designed and tested with older adults with consideration for aesthetic preferences as well as usefulness, ease of use, and accessibility of the technological devices. The results provide strong evidence of the importance of both form and function, when designing such technological devices for acceptance and adoption by older adults. More importantly, the research highlights a need for a multidisciplinary and intergenerational approach to address the real needs of older adults in the design of such technologies.


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