Older People and the Adoption of Innovations: A study of the expectations on the use of social assistive robots and telehealthcare systems

Sammanfattning: Aims and objectives: The research presented investigates older people’s expectations of social assistive robots and telehealthcare systems. Methods: The empirical studies presented are based on fieldwork carried out before social assistive robots and a telehealthcare system were introduced into the domestic environment of older people. The research draws upon participatory design to explore older people’s expectations of social assistive robots and telehealthcare systems through activities such as workshops, questionnaires and in-depth interviews with older people and informal caregivers. Results: The findings indicate that the expectations of older participants are affected by three variables: the seductive power of technology, the motivational effect, and devaluating of other old people by older people. Evidence suggests that expectations are both performative and retrospective. Performative since the older participants in the lab trials amended their behaviour in order to accommodate the robot in the robot-human interaction. Retrospective since experience and memories from the past caused the older participants to perceive telehealthcare systems and social assistive robots as being “good for others but not themselves”, “a social assistive robot as a machine not a friend”. Their relatives and informal caregivers also perceived a robot as “not for my relative but for other older people”. Conclusion: At a more universal level, the thesis challenges the technological deterministic approach that characterises mainstream technological-innovation development and argues that ageing is a social construction as well as an open-ended process with no clear boundaries. This in turn means that older users’ expectations are situated in a social context. The thesis points out the need for research on the interplay between telehealthcare systems and/or social assistive robots, older people and everyday life in the domestic context.