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Adaptive Environments for Enabling Senior Citizens: an Holistic Assessment Tool for Housing Design and IoT-based Technologies


The population of older adults will continuously increase over the coming decades. As they get older, people will require assistance and regular monitoring, with higher costs for welfare system and families. Two vital aspects of a healthy lifestyle, are domestic autonomy and maintenance of relationships within the neighborhood. This leads to an interesting research issue: “Could houses and appliances have the potential to improve autonomy and quality of life of citizens? Which methods and tools could enhance well being and healthy conditions? The house has the potential to be a safe, adaptive environment, integrated with technologies for life support.

This work seeks to investigate the key implications of architectural accessibility, interior Design features and interactive technologies, related to User Experience Design. The proposed Design approach called “Environment Design to Sustain Users” is based on a scenario composed of two empirical strategies. The reported research aims to support the creation of a new standard of houses in which people can live in a healthy way, enjoying the opportunities of ICT, which shall be “enabling” and integrated in an unobtrusive way so as to be accepted by the user.


The potential of Smart Technologies and IoT to improve health, highly increased in the last few years, but IoT must be unified in its services or the potential gains will not emerge. The users have to trust that the services can be used all the time, that analytics of the population’s health will be used for the common good, and for clearly visible short term individual benefit. Care and personal aids at home are typically provided by local support services with the adoption of new devices and innovative, sustainable practices to postpone institutionalization. Some of these approaches could be employed in interactions between doctor and patient, via Internet (Skype or video-conference system), physical conditions monitored via wearable devices connected to the Cloud, house comfort, such as heating or cooling system controlled via remote. It is known that smart homes should become an instrument for supporting people and improve the performance of Activities of Daily Living.


Fig. 1. Evaluation chart of Passive and Active Technologies and Users Feedback for each case study analysed

Fig. 1. Evaluation chart of Passive and Active Technologies and Users Feedback for each case study analysed

The case studies were finally estimated and classified by collecting feedback from primary and secondary users and feedback from experts and designers who worked or were related to each case study. Each case study has been analysed through the Evaluation chart (Fig. 1), which is a simply and quick method to visualize the level of features (referred to Passive, Active Technologies or User Feedback) with a scale from 1 to 10.


Fig. 5. Framework of the EDSU Approach and main impacts on the population

Fig. 5. Framework of the EDSU Approach and main impacts on the population

The EDSU approach is based on to two strategies: one is the “Lifelong Housing Design”, a strategy useful to design and build accessible and usable homes and one called “Lifelong Technological Integration” useful to identify and suggest which are the best features of different smart devices, integrated, in a simple and intuitive way within the home context, for supporting the life of householders. The two strategies are composed by merging the results and the user feedback of the theoretical research related to interior Design features and usable smart device for senior houses (Fig. 5).


This research has sought to define a new Design approach, that is able to foresee future needs of a growing ageing population and would improve the life’s quality of senior people, who could remain in their own home for longer, in a safer way. The EDSU approach is created by merging different methods to analyse issues: from the user’s point of view, to the guidelines belonging to different Design approaches and an holistic method. It can provide customized information related to additional Smart appliances, integrated in a “Long-life friendly” house. This could increase the quality of life within the built environment, improve the autonomy and sense of security and enhance the usage of smart devices for senior citizens. Two useful tangible implications of the strategies developed within the research could be: the creation of domestic systems, designed according to accessible and usable standards and smart devices, integrated in a non-invasive way, to simplify daily activities for the users, and improving the physical, relational and social capacities of ageing.

Source: University of Genoa
Authors: Matteo Zallio | Damon Berry | Niccolo Casiddu

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