Smart Home technology used in the care of elderly people

In a smart home, intelligent systems monitor the health, behaviour and unusual activities of elderly people and can, for example, send out an automatic emergency call in the event of a fall. However, these technologies also raise ethical and social concerns, which are the subject of investigation of this project.

  • Project description

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    Our project consists of three modules. In module 1, we will closely survey both the elderly people using smart home technology at home or in a nursing home, and their caregivers, who may be family members or health care professionals. Our aim is to determine what the respondents know about these technologies, what they expect to gain from them and how they are generally attuned to them. In module 2, we will question the Swiss population on this topic. We will collect representative data on knowledge, understanding and acceptance of smart home solutions for the care of elderly people. These two modules will serve to generate recommendations based on experience, which we will then refine in a third module using methods of applied ethics.

  • Background

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    In the Swiss population, the proportion of elderly people was 18 percent in 2018. For reasons such as rising health costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the needs of this growing group of citizens. In this context, so-called smart home technologies could offer appropriate solutions, but raise a number of social and ethical questions: Do they encroach too strongly on people’s autonomy? Do they endanger interpersonal contact, a central element of care? How is the data protected?

  • Aim

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    The project has three objectives:

    1. To understand the main concerns of the elderly and their caregivers and to determine where ethical conflicts arise when such technologies are used for care purposes;
    2. to create conditions under which smart home technologies are accepted by their current or future users in Switzerland;
    3. to find ways in which smart home technologies can be developed and used more efficiently and responsibly.
  • Relevance

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    Handing over part of the services provided by human caregivers to smart home technologies is an effective, yet delicate process. We are generating the knowledge required to ensure an ethically reflective use of new technologies in the care of elderly people. We will formulate application-oriented recommendations based on empirical evidence. These can then be implemented by developers to ensure a responsible and value-based development of the required technology.

  • Original title

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    Smart Homes, Older Adults, and Caregivers: Facilitating social acceptance and negotiating responsibilities [RESOURCE]