It is clear that the world population is aging increasingly. According to the United Nation Population Division, in 2050 the number of people over the age of 65 will be greater than the number of youth for the very first time in our history. Rapid increase of the aging population comes with higher demand on personal healthcare particularly for seniors who require additional care due to chorionic conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Shifting the healthcare model for non-critical conditions from formal (hospitals and nursing homes) to informal care (personal residence) was suggested to reduce healthcare cost. A concept called Aging in Place (seniors residing in their own home) was introduced as a response to the increasing population of seniors and the associated care cost. Additionally, studies revealed that seniors prefer to live the remaining years of their life in the comfort of their own places including those who suffer from neurocognitive disorders (NCD’s) such as Dementia.

 

Recently, there have been efforts to deploy commercial smart home systems to assist the seniors with neurocognitive disorders to age at home. However, NCD’s are progressive conditions in nature meaning the person’s needs can change over time as the condition progresses. Moreover, many types of NCD’s effect each person differently creating a variety of needs (). These two factors made designing one commercial smart home system for seniors with neurocognitive disorders (SwNCD) almost impossible.

 

In this research project, we attempt to design an open-ended smart home system that allows users to setup functions based on their needs. When a function is not needed, users can delete it and setup a new one that meets their needs. This approach is believed to be a good response to the progressive nature of NCDs. Moreover, this feature allows users to add home appliances and connect them to the system based on their needs. In order to achieve a higher level of system usability, this research project follows User-Centered Design instruments such as Cooperative Design (Co-Design). Formal and informal caregivers will be included as co-designers throughout every stage of the design course to assure that all the special requirements of the target population are taken into consideration. Figure 1 below explains the Double Diamonds design process that we following.

In our suggested smart home system, we provide users with three dimensions of interaction:

  • Monitoring: where users (the seniors or their caregivers) can monitor what is happening at home via smart sensors that are located in different locations indoor and outdoor.
  • Notifications: where users can setup a function to notify them when a certain event occurs.
  • Control: where users will be able to either directly control home appliances that are connected to the system or to setup up a function where the house system will take action if certain even occurs.

Figure 2 below presents the conceptual model of the suggested system.

 

We are glad to announce that we currently have four partners and sponsors.

  • The Faculty of Science, the University of Calgary who provides annual initial funding through the Computational Media Design (CMD) students’ funding program.
  • The World of 21st Century who generously provided funding to cover the first phase of this research work, especially the requirement elicitation study.
  • IFTTT.com who recently offered us a free beta access to their API which will give us the chance to have access to over 300 smart home devices that can be connected to their platform.
  • The Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary who at the beginning of our research work enhanced our understanding of NCD’s by involving us in their monthly meetings, events, and workshops.