Taking Stock of the Present and Future of Smart Technologies for Older Adults and Caregivers

Christina N. Harrington, Ben Jelen, Amanda Lazar, Aqueasha Martin-Hammond, Alisha Pradhan, Blaine Reeder, Katie Siek

Technology has the opportunity to assist older adults as they age in place, coordinate caregiving resources, and meet unmet needs through access to resources. Currently, older adults use consumer technologies to support everyday life, however these technologies are not always accessible or as useful as they can be. Indeed, industry has attempted to create smart home technologies with older adults as a target user group, however these solutions are often more focused on the technical aspects and are short lived. In this paper, we advocate for older adults being involved in the design process - from initial ideation to product development to deployment. We encourage federally funded researchers and industry to create compensated, diverse older adult advisory boards to address stereotypes about aging while ensuring their needs are considered. We envision artificial intelligence systems that augment resources instead of replacing them - especially in under-resourced communities. Older adults rely on their caregiver networks and community organizations for social, emotional, and physical support; thus, AI should be used to coordinate resources better and lower the burden of connecting with these resources. Although sociotechnical smart systems can help identify needs of older adults, the lack of affordable research infrastructure and translation of findings into consumer technology perpetuates inequities in designing for diverse older adults. In addition, there is a disconnect between the creation of smart sensing systems and creating understandable, actionable data for older adults and caregivers to utilize. We ultimately advocate for a well-coordinated research effort across the United States that connects older adults, caregivers, community organizations, and researchers together to catalyze innovative and practical research for all stakeholders.

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