Project bridges digital divide between seniors and smart home technologies

March 24, 2021 1:19 am

The Smart Homes for Seniors project, now complete, looked at opportunities presented by new technologies to help older people stay independent in their own homes for longer, particularly in regional and rural communities where there is often more limited access to services.

In partnership with researchers from Monash and Deakin Universities, the project evaluated the opportunities and challenges of incorporating smart home technologies into the homes and lives of older people living in Gunnedah, Tamworth and Inverell in regional New South Wales.

From the findings, researchers were able to identify the usability challenges and expectations, as well as the hopes and anxieties older people have of smart home devices.

This project has dispelled many of the myths and stereotypes about older people and their willingness and ability to engage with new technologies. With exponential growth in the types of technologies available over the last few years, it’s a natural progression for older people to be involved in using them to support wellbeing and independence.

The final report provided us with a range of insights and recommendations, including the potential for offering smart home devices as optional extras for in-home services, the importance of providing older people with opportunities to learn new digital skills, providing affordable and reliable internet services, and designing and installing smart home devices that support older people’s independence, mobility, memory and social engagement, such as the use of video-calling to stay connected with loved ones during a pandemic.

The project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health through a Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) Innovation grant.