Create tech that empowers independence and safe living

How might we transform the home environment to enhance self-reliance and enable the ability to stay at home later in life?

Living life without fear of loss of independence can alleviate anxiety in older adults, while for caregivers safety equals peace-of-mind.

Goal: Solutions should be accessible and enable older adults to maintain independence and wellness.

  • Opportunity & Challenge


    Core recipients are all aware of their need to prevent fall, turn-off the stove, turn-off the faucet because the equate of falls and not being able to monitor daily living activity as loss of independence.

    Core recipients aspire to an empowerment approach rather than monitoring; preventive over crisis management.

    Core recipients wants solutions to integrate seamlessly with their daily living and provide caregivers an un-obstructive way to stay informed about their loved one’s health and home activity.


    A life without fear of loss of independence alleviates the anxiety needing to up root from home. How might we enable older adults the best possible life by providing them an opportunity to stay in their own home safely?

    For caregivers and their loved ones alike, safety equals peace-of-mind from falls or utilities open, such as open burner or gas leakage or faucet running.

    Current solutions focus on detection and monitoring rather than prevention, and signal that the worst has just happened rather than helping. Any wearable safety solution needs to break the stereotype that this is a device for “feeble old people”. Design for multipurpose and ageless.

    Challenge Prompts

    Take a universal design approach, ie… design products/services that are easy and seamless to use for all people (not just older adults, but also middle age people. This ensures usability by all.

    Create a Safe Living Environment focusing on:

    • Fall prevention and emergency response
    • Monitoring individual daily living activities to ensure safety

    The and kitchen and bathrooms tend to be the place can create hazards for older adults, particularly in remembering to turn off appliances and running water:

    • Detect status of potentially dangerous appliances including stove and oven burners, gas, and running faucets
  • User Personas for Challenge

    In one’s 50s:

    • May stumble more often. Some adults may experience hearing loss. “Balance gets thrown off when you can’t hear your footsteps,” says  Frank Lin, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University. Ask your doctor if it’s time for a hearing test.
    • Strong Reasoning skills. “Crystallized intelligence” refers to the ability to use learned knowledge and experience to solve problems. Research shows that cognitive reasoning is strong. Of note the average Fortune 500 CEO is age 50. Another example, airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was 57 when he successfully landed that jetliner, saving many lives.
    • Memory center is intact. The human brain volume shrinks 5 percent per decade, beginning in the 40s. However, there is no impact on cognitive function as the hippocampus, the memory center in the brain, size is not affected.
    • Emotional balance. The brains of older adults processes emotions in a healthier way. This means reaction is less strong to negative situations and gets a bigger charge out of positive situations.

    In one’s 60s: Mostly similar to 50s, however, Losing memory is a top aging concern.  

    In one’s 70s: Attributes from 50s and 60s carried over with the following emerging traits:

    • Lead the pack when it comes to wisdom. Older Americans scored higher on tests of the ability to compromise and maintain perspective than did people in their 20s through 50s, a University of Texas/University of Michigan study showed.  
    • Memory Center in the brain needs a hand. The hippocampus (a memory center) has mostly stayed the same size. But in older adults, the hippocampus can begin to lose volume, particularly if the person is subjected to a lifetime of stress, poor sleep and less-than-stellar nutrition.
    • Sleep is becoming more elusive. Up to 50 percent of adults in their 70s have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. They wake up more easily now and spend less time in deep, restorative sleep. One in 3 adults in their 70s take sleep aids, Rx and OTC remedies among them, but some of these can boost your risk for falls and drowsy, disoriented thinking during the day. 
  • Challenge Guidelines

    The challenge calls for affordable (low-cost) assistive technological capabilities that prioritizes human connection/empathy to provide solutions which are:

    • Passive, non intrusive
    • Take an empathy-first approach, focused on comfort and buy-in (acceptance and adoption) for older adult users/customers
    • Fit seamlessly into elderly daily living needs

    Consider these outcomes for the solutions:

    • Monitoring technology that converts into user/caregiver engagement, and then being able to show proof of well being for user and caregiver based upon engagement with assistive technology
    • Account for the user's perspective regarding how much benefit the user/caregiver sees by using the solution vs. the work (i.e. data entry, time, etc.) that's needed to realize these benefits. Consider that either the user/caregiver little to no work and receives value for low/no cost (think iTunes or Spotify finding songs they like) or the user or caregiver may be willing to put more effort in odder to get more value. For example, standing on a scale in the morning is not a big deal, but remembering to do something all the time is harder and the user needs more reinforcement and positive feedback.
    • Account for user buy-in (ie… interesting and valuable to them)
    • Account for how much work/cost is needed to keep people engaged. For longer term benefits you need to provide short term rewards. Keep this as frictionless as possible.
  • Challenge-Specific Resources and Readings