Design for person-environment interaction in older age: a gerontechnological perspective

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Gerontechnology is a new interdisciplinary field of research in which technology is directed towards aspirations and opportunities for older people. Consequently, gerontological and technological research are inherently connected. Demographically, the aged are an increasing section of our society with specific but not homogeneous characteristics. In principle they might benefit much from innovative technological research. This article tries to show that this is usually not the case, and quite likely, will not be the case in the future either. The most important reasons are the perceptual world of older people, and the nature of the technological design process. The design process, or rather the product creation process in its current form, is particularly refractory to changes that will benefit a Design for All strategy. This is not to say that the circumstances of older people in the future will not be any better than nowadays, from a technology point of view. Yet, a persistent backlog with respect to younger members of society will be unavoidable. Considerable changes in the design process will ensue when applications, based on situated and distributed control systems, will support activities of older people in their own environment. The behaviour of such systems, inasmuch as it emerges from continuous interaction with the inhabitants of the home, is essentially the product, and this is where gerontechnology can make important inroads. On the basis of recent research it is interesting to note that the existence of gerontechnology has led to renewed attention for motivation, decision, and choice, giving due credit to older people as the deciding agents of their own course of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-246
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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