Increasing Mobility in Older Adults. Early Findings from the “Devices for Assisted Living' Europe-wide project”.
De Angeli A
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The number of over 65s in the European Union (EU) is predicted to almost double by 2060.Those over 80 will be almost triple 2008 figures (European Commission, 2009). Mobility per se, but particularly physical activity, is related to independent living, wellbeing and reduced mortality (Mänty et al., 2007). Shopping is a useful way for individuals to stay mobile. It encourages physical activity and reduces social isolation (Kim, Kang, & Kim, 2005). However increased risk (and experience) of falls, and reduced muscle control can result in older adults feeling less confident in their ability to go out independently especially in unfamiliar and crowded spaces. In the EU-funded DALi (Devices for Assisted Living) project, we pursue autonomous mobility through the development of the ‘c-walker’. This mobility aid supports navigation in crowded and unstructured spaces. The device will anticipate the intent of the individual and determine the path that poses minimal risk of accident. The c-walker will recommend a course of action to the user through visual, acoustic, and/or haptic interfaces. As this is an assistive technology, the user remains in charge of ultimate decision making. The expected benefits include reducing the anxiety of navigating such environments, increased likelihood of continued autonomous use of such environments, and increased or maintained personal independence. In this paper we present the initial requirements gathering research. Utilising a mixed methods approach (naturalistic observations, focus groups, interviews, surveys and experimentation) we discuss how older users engage with the shopping environment, the perceived benefits of shopping and, more generally, thought, cognition and decision making processes during shared space navigation.