Iterative User Involvement in Ambient Assisted Living Research and Development Processes: Does It Really Make a Difference?

Iterative User Involvement in Ambient Assisted Living Research and Development Processes: Does It Really Make a Difference?

Sonja Müller (empirica – Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Technologieforschung, Germany), Ingo Meyer (empirica – Gesellschaft für Kommunikations- und Technologieforschung, Germany), Ilse Bierhoff (Stichting Smart Homes, Netherlands), Sarah Delaney (Work Research Centre, Ireland), Andrew Sixsmith (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and Sandra Sproll (University of Stuttgart, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-469-1.ch010
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Abstract

The example chosen to best demonstrate how the character and detail of user ideas changed in the different stages of the R&D process is the development of an exercise support system applying an avatar showing the exercises on the TV in the home of an older person.
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Background: From Independence To User Involvement

The SOPRANO (Service-oriented Programmable Smart Environments for Older Europeans) project is an EU project funded under the 6th Framework Programme developing supportive environments for older people based on the concept of “AAL”, using pervasive ICTs to enable older people to live independently in their own homes.

The concept of “independent living” is very much at the core of the research and development carried out in SOPRANO and in similar projects in the field of AAL. The concept is increasingly used in policy addressing demographic ageing, social integration of older people as well as health and social care provision, reflecting the desire of older people to live independently in their own homes (Sixsmith, 1986; Gattuso, 1996; Moore, 2000). Despite its experiential and policy significance, it should be noted that the term “independent living” in itself is a high-level concept or an aggregation of a multitude of factors reaching down to the level of the individual and related to a fundamental question: “What is important for me to lead a good life (in old age)?” There is also evidence that this concept, particularly in relation to older people, is understood rather poorly today (Sixsmith, 1986; Secker et al, 2003). Few have asked what the term means, or what its constituent parts are. Some deconstruction of the term is therefore in order to better understand the role of user involvement in SOPRANO.

Independent living” can be understood as the desire to lead one’s life and at the same time avoid dependence. Such dependence can take different forms according to the area of life that is concerned. For the purpose of this deconstruction, we assume four such areas:

  • Social Interaction: maintaining social contacts without becoming a burden on others, including family members, friends and neighbours.

  • Economic Welfare: bearing the expenses of daily living (rent, shopping, travelling etc.) alone or together with a partner.

  • Mental Wellbeing: possessing the necessary mental capabilities to carry out activities such as planning a holiday, remembering appointments and phone numbers, orientating oneself in the streets etc.

  • Bodily Wellbeing: possessing the necessary physical capabilities to carry out activities such as shopping, washing, cleaning etc.

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