For Immediate Release
"That illustrates how important it is to older adults to stay in
their homes rather than move into some type of assisted-living housing,"
Rogers, a professor of psychology at Georgia Tech. Rogers presented
preliminary findings of the study at CHI2004, an international conference
on computer-human interaction held April 24-29 in Vienna, Austria.
The study, which examined older adults' perception of a technology-rich
home environment, was part of the multidisciplinary Aware
Home project conducted at Georgia Tech's Broadband
Institute Residential Laboratory. The laboratory, funded in part by
the Georgia Research Alliance, is a unique
three-story house where researchers focus on domestic technologies for
the future. The study Rogers presented was funded by the National
Science Foundation and the National
Institutes of Health.
For this study, researchers invited 44 adults ages 65 to 75 to tour the
residential laboratory and view new technologies designed by Georgia Tech
College of Computing researchers
specifically to help people age in place. These technologies, ranging
from low to high levels of intrusiveness, included:
Researchers asked participants what they specifically liked and disliked about the technologies. To spark qualitative responses, all questions were subjective in nature, such as: What is your first impression about living in a home like this? How would you feel about living here? Do you think there may be situations in which an Aware Home could invade your privacy?
The interviews with older adults were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim.
Researchers then created a coding scheme and analyzed comments along different
dimensions, such as attitude to technology and context of use.
"Understanding how older adults evaluate technology provides insights
into their judgments and decision-making processes, which will help us
design tools they will actually use," Rogers said. "Technology
in the home is useless if people don't want it."
Unlike younger adults, older people don't care if a technology is the
latest thing or a status symbol. Instead, what sparked interest among
study participants was the degree to which a particular technology could
Another key factor was whether they viewed the technology as a luxury
or necessity. "They were more willing to embrace a technology if
they perceived a need and if they had some degree of control," Rogers
Critics might consider the Digital Family Portrait as a privacy invasion
because it monitors residents and transmits that information to someone
else. "For younger adults, there would be no trade-off," Rogers
said. "Yet some of the older adults who participated in the study
said they actually felt more secure if someone was monitoring them."
FaceBot sparked the most divergent comments. Some participants liked
it, while others were uncomfortable with the aesthetics of the face, deeming
Participants also envisioned new uses for the technologies. For example,
one individual liked the idea of using FaceBot as a robotic butler of
sorts to welcome guests into the home. Another person suggested Cook's
Collage could be used as a memory aid when taking medications.
The study drew from an ethnically diverse pool, including Hispanics,
non-Hispanic whites and blacks. Researchers were curious if cultural differences
might affect older adults' evaluation, but none appeared in the initial
analysis, Rogers noted.
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