From the moment we hit our teen years, we are driven to achieve independence. The desire to maintain our hard-won independence into our later years has spurred the growth of new technologies designed to help people continue living independently for the full length of their lives. A 2011 AARP survey found that 90% of people 65-plus would prefer to continue living in their homes throughout their lives. However, less than 10% reported using currently available personal and safety technology designed to help them do so.
The Need for Technology
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, nearly one in two Americans has a chronic medical condition. An estimated 90% of older Americans cope with at least one chronic illness and 77% with two or more. There is a growing need for technology, services and products that enable older adults to live independently in their homes. As the AARP survey indicates, awareness of product availability needs to be improved, but that's just one side of the issue. Sometimes products that perform beautifully in the laboratory fail to perform as successfully in the home under real-life conditions.
To ensure that scientific research moves from the drawing board into people's homes successfully, scientists are turning to what are called living laboratories, testing new products in people's homes before they go into production. Daily feedback from actual users allows scientists to work out the bugs, improving product performance and appearance before new products are offered to the public. By providing a direct line of communication between product developers and the people those products are designed to serve, living laboratories are proving instrumental in the creation of products that enable independent living.
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Photo: Skokie Public Library