Innovation & Aging - The image about the elderly user in the Smart Homes sector
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In European and other developed countries there is an increasing number of elderly people while the number of younger people declines. This leads to an increasing demand for care and costs for society are growing. In the field of gerontechnology elderly-Smart Homes are an upcoming technology which are a possible solution to the proportional rise of the ageing population. An image of sick, care needing elderly people often is the underlying image in designing technology for elderly users although this is a very limited image. This research is trying to analyze which images about elderly users explicitly or implicitly are created by designers. A distinction is made between images created with an individual lag perspective, which is based on deficits of elderly users and is related to ‘have to use’ assistive technologies, and with a socio-structural lag perspective, which is based on needs and preferences of elderly users and is related to ‘want to use’ everyday technologies. As framework the source of use information theory is used to analyze how information about elderly users and their needs is gathered by designers and how directly elderly users are involved in the design process. Two European projects in the research phase and two Dutch projects in the implementation phase of the elderly-Smart Homes sector are used as case study for qualitative research. The involved sources of use information and the explicitly or implicitly created image about elderly users are analyzed. Its consequences on technological development and implementation strategies are explored and this is compared to expectations from theory. Barriers in the elderly-Smart Homes sector are shown and finally policy recommendations are made.