An Approach to the Development of Technology to Empower the Elderly

Edward Riseman, Allen Hanson, Roderick Grupen, Phebe Sessions, Julie Abramson, Mary Olson, Candace Sidner

The growing numbers of elderly individuals in need of support to live in the community will severely test the current services infrastructure. Part of the answer is to develop technological innovations that allow an elder population to successfully “age in place” with dignity and a sense of involvement with their community. However, we believe that it is essential to understand the needs of the target community through interdisciplinary perspectives of social science and computer science in partnership with potential elderly recipients of the technology themselves. Our team of researchers brings together social scientists and geriatric social work practitioners from Smith College and computer scientists who have expertise in computer vision, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, and intelligent user interfaces from the University of Massachussetts and Mitsubishi Electrical Research Laboratory (MERL).

We believe that those who develop assistive technology should be sufficiently involved at the ground level with the elders themselves, their families, caregivers and service systems. Active collaboration between social scientists and computer scientists can be increased significantly. Social science can tap into the theoretical foundations of behavior and identify those issues that are likely to facilitate and obstruct the introduction of assistive technology to the elderly, while technologists can provide the hardware, software, and environments to test promising ideas and provide dynamic feedback into the analysis.


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