Testing time as tenants help research high-tech independent living


newslatestDisabled and older people are taking part in a trial to find out whether using robotic vacuum cleaners, wireless light switches and online shopping apps could make everyday independent living tasks easier.

The equipment in the trial is controlled using a tablet computer, allowing the user to carry out chores such as cleaning the floor, ordering shopping and turning the light on, without leaving their chair, wheelchair or bed.

The trials are part of a European Union-funded independent living project, I-stay@home, which is examining the potential of information and communications technology to support older and disabled people to  live independently, and address challenges such as isolation, security, and financial hardship.

The three-year project, which ends next year, involves partner organisations from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Nearly 200 older and disabled tenants across Europe will be trying out gadgets and judging them on their usefulness, reliability and value-for-money in supporting independent living.

The project’s UK partner, Habinteg Housing Association, which specialises in accessible housing, is working with 22 disabled and older tenants across London.

They are testing technology such as a robotic vacuum cleaner, a motion sensor for detecting falls, a wireless cameras for identifying visitors at the front door, wireless light switches, energy monitors, and online apps for banking and shopping.

Research from phase one of I-stay@home in 2013 found that three-fifths of disabled and older people were open to using new technology to help them in their homes.

Bill Smalley, one of the Habinteg tenants testing products, said: “I’m really pleased to be trying out this technology. The vacuum cleaner is excellent and is already saving me and my wife time with jobs around the house. This was certainly more difficult before so we’re already seeing the benefit.

“I’m all for this project and I know that other tenants would be helped by these new ideas. If we can help other people in future with this testing that would be fantastic.”

Habinteg and its partners aim to use the research to promote the use of effective high-tech equipment for tenants both in and outside social housing.

12 June 2014