Release of smart homes for seniors: intelligent home solutions for independent living

In a partnership with McLean Care and Deakin University, a team of Monash researchers from the ETLab have evaluated the benefits, opportunities and challenges of incorporating smart home devices into the homes and lives of older people living in regional communities.

From digital voice assistants to automated ‘smart’ lights and robotic vacuum cleaners, readily available off-the-shelf smart home devices can support the wellbeing and independence of older Australians, as identified by new research.

The research involved participant insights, electronic data from the devices showing participants' usage patterns, user reviews and end-of-trial surveys.

From the findings, researchers were able to identify the usability challenges, expectations, as well as the hopes and anxieties older people have of smart home devices in assisting them to live more independently and to improve their overall wellbeing.

“Older people are a marginalised demographic when it comes to the design of smart home devices and are often underrepresented in user studies,” said Monash University Project Lead, Associate Professor in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab, Yolande Strengers.

“Despite the many benefits smart home devices can offer the elderly population, many older Australians are increasingly concerned about being left behind in the digital age, highlighting the need for proactive policy and research initiatives to help bridge this gap.”

As part of this study, the researchers identified a number of recommendations to equip older people and bridge the digital divide.

These recommendations included offering smart home devices as optional extras for in-home services, providing opportunities for learning to gain digital living skills, providing affordable and reliable internet services, and designing and installing smart home devices that support older people’s independence, mobility and memory.

The Monash research team consisted of:

Learn more about the Smart Homes for Seniors project, or access the Final Report.

View the Media Release.

Learn more about the Smart Homes for Seniors (2021) film, directed by Sarah Pink.

Photography: Emerging Technologies Research Lab team. © Emerging Technologies Lab 2021