Low-tech devices have largest impression for older folks, analysis finds | About

New research undertaken by housing and ageing experts at the University of Stirling has found that introducing low tech gadgets to retirement living schemes has a major impact on health and well-being.

Led by Dr Vikki McCall in partnership with leading housing association Stonewater, the study, funded by the Longleigh Foundation, sought to find out how technology could best support retired living residents. Researchers found gadgets such as Fitbits, hot water dispensers, jar openers and smart speakers, which enabled small changes to residents’ daily life, had a transformative effect on their wellbeing and safety.

Dr McCall, a senior lecturer in Social Policy and Housing at the University of Stirling, said: “The evidence highlights a strong and recurrent theme where minor improvements to the day-to-day living of older people living in supported accommodation sites, can have the biggest impact and that routine changes can have a transformative effect. This can be from making a cup of tea independently, to joining a ‘Fitbit’ walking group or receiving medication reminders on your tablet.”

The research included interviews with staff and residents at four Stonewater retired living accommodation schemes across England, to identify which technology might improve living and working conditions. The technology or ‘gadget’ was then introduced, with researchers recording people’s experiences.

Dr McCall said: “Each piece of tech introduced was based on supporting real life barriers and challenges, as well as enhancing social opportunities and connectedness. Providing assistance with simple, routine tasks was acknowledged to make a significant difference to people.”

One member of staff involved in the research said: “Everything that’s been provided has made somebody more independent. Some of those small, simple gadgets like the plate, the angled spoon, the jar-opener, are amazing. Something as small as that which really does challenge someone, is huge in their lives. It’s those little, small things which have a huge impact.”

“This re-conceptualisation of technology – to include low-tech gadgets alongside state-of-the-art digital technology,” Dr McCall added, “shows technology as more of a process and that both high and low-tech solutions can play a critical role in daily life, supporting individual well-being, social connectedness and feelings of independence.”