Date of Original Version

2004

Type

Article

Abstract or Description

For elders who remain independent in their homes, the home becomes more than just a place to eat and sleep. The home becomes a place where people care for each other, and it gradually subsumes all activities. This article reports on an ethnographic study of aging adults who live independently in their homes. Seventeen elders aged 60 through 90 were interviewed and observed in their homes in 2 Midwestern cities. The goal is to understand how robotic products might assist these people, helping them to stay independent and active longer. The experience of aging is described as an ecology of aging made up of people, products, and activities taking place in a local environment of the home and the surrounding community. In this environment, product successes and failures often have a dramatic impact on the ecology, throwing off a delicate balance. When a breakdown occurs, family members and other caregivers have to intervene, threatening elders' independence and identity. This article highlights the interest in how the elder ecology can be supported by new robotic products that are conceived of as a part of this interdependent system. It is recommended that the design of these products fit the ecology as part of the system, support elders' values, and adapt to all of the members of the ecology who will interact with them.

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