Technology for Independent Living in Old Age. A Research Strategy for Context-Integrating and Practice-Centered Needs Assessments

Thomas Birken, Helga Pelizäus-Hoffmeister, Petra Schweiger, Rainer Sontheimer


Up to now, the development of technical support systems for the elderly has largely been technology-driven, with results often failing to meet the real challenges inherent to independent living in old age. In contrast, we present a research strategy capable of surveying the needs and desires of the elderly based on an analysis of their everyday lives and activities. The results are applicable to the development of assistance systems that support independence and self-determination in the domestic lives of the elderly. The strategy presented here is focused on the first step of identifying the specific needs of the elderly. Transferring this scientific data into technical requirements would be a subsequent second step.

Our approach of a context-integrating and practice-centered needs assessment combines elements from field study methods and participatory research to paint a valid picture of the challenges present in the everyday lives of older people.

The methodology is particularly useful in developing technical systems for contexts of application characterized by a high degree of routinization and, therefore, also by a high degree of reluctance to accept the effort that goes with adapting innovations. Our methodology may be used within, but also beyond, the field of technology development for the elderly.


technology for the elderly; usage-centeredness; qualitative needs assessment; conduct of everyday life; gerontology; field research; problem-centered interview; participatory research; qualitative content analysis; grounded theory methodology


Copyright (c) 2017 Helga Pelizäus-Hoffmeister, Thomas Birken, Thomas Birken, Petra Schweiger, Petra Schweiger, Rainer Sontheimer, Rainer Sontheimer

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