Researchers Present on Caregiving, Connected Home Research at HCI 2023

by Adam Felts

A group of AgeLab researchers who work on projects related to caregiving, the connected home, and more gave presentations at the 2023 International Conference on Human Computer Interaction (HCI). For the first in-person session of the conference since the COVID-19 pandemic, the keynote address from Carnegie Mellon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction Sara Kiesler was on the theme of “Humanizing Cyberspace” – finding ways to reform  the internet into a helpful and humane environment rather than a site of division and distraction.

AgeLab Research Scientist Chaiwoo Lee led a conference symposium titled Emerging technologies in an aging society: Highlights from recent MIT AgeLab studies.

The symposium featured paper presentations on different aspects of the AgeLab’s technology-related research, including the experiences of family caregivers, how members of the “oldest old” think about sharing their data with companies, and research on connected home technologies.

In addition to organizing and introducing the symposium, Dr. Lee also presented AgeLab research that examined how older adults perceived and interacted with automated customer service systems.

Adam Felts and Lexi Balmuth gave presentations on the AgeLab’s caregiving research. Ms. Balmuth talked about family caregivers’ use of technology to support caregiving, finding that caregivers are generally open to using technology both for themselves and for caregiving, but a substantial gap persists in their rates of using technology for themselves as opposed to their rates of use for caregiving (with the latter being lower).

Mr. Felts gave an overview of research that describes caregivers’ use of the internet for information-seeking, which found that caregivers use the internet more than any other information source despite giving it low scores for trustworthiness and reliability. The ease and convenience of the internet may supervene concerns about its trustworthiness for family caregivers, who tend to report heavy constraints on their time.

Sophia Ashebir and Manasi Vaidya spoke on Ms. Vaidya’s research project that examines the 85+ Lifestyle Leaders' attitudes toward privacy policies. As with many people, the Lifestyle Leaders reported that they did not tend to read privacy policies that accompany technologies and services that collect user data. Many Lifestyle Leaders also did not know that they had the ability with many services to change how their user data is collected and used by service providers, suggesting a need for more effective communication.

Shabnam FakhrHosseini and Lauren Cerino presented on the AgeLab’s Connected Home (C3) research. Dr. FakhrHosseini talked about an AgeLab study that presented older interview participants with a “level 3” “networked” automated home and asked them about their willingness to live in a home with that level of technology. Most participants responded that they would prefer to live in the “level 3” home, with perceived benefits for health, safety, and convenience, alongside concerns about learning and installing new technologies, costs, privacy, and system reliability.

Ms. Cerino presented on the AgeLab’s development of a prototype smart home system that was deployed in research participants’ homes. The construction of the first prototype of the home system and participants’ responses to it – many of which were critical – highlighted the importance of adhering to human centered design principles when designing technology and employing an iterative approach – creating multiple versions of a product and revising it based on user feedback.

Together, the presentations described both ways that technology can be applied to improve the lives of older adults, as well as ways that technology may need to be itself improved in order to better meet the needs of older users and those who care for them.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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