What it Takes to Successfully Implement Technology for Aging in Place: Focus Groups With Stakeholders

Sebastiaan Theodorus Michaƫl Peek, Eveline J M Wouters, Katrien G Luijkx, Hubertus J M Vrijhoef
Journal of Medical Internet Research 2016 May 3, 18 (5): e98

BACKGROUND: There is a growing interest in empowering older adults to age in place by deploying various types of technology (ie, eHealth, ambient assisted living technology, smart home technology, and gerontechnology). However, initiatives aimed at implementing these technologies are complicated by the fact that multiple stakeholder groups are involved. Goals and motives of stakeholders may not always be transparent or aligned, yet research on convergent and divergent positions of stakeholders is scarce.

OBJECTIVE: To provide insight into the positions of stakeholder groups involved in the implementation of technology for aging in place by answering the following questions: What kind of technology do stakeholders see as relevant? What do stakeholders aim to achieve by implementing technology? What is needed to achieve successful implementations?

METHODS: Mono-disciplinary focus groups were conducted with participants (n=29) representing five groups of stakeholders: older adults (6/29, 21%), care professionals (7/29, 24%), managers within home care or social work organizations (5/29, 17%), technology designers and suppliers (6/29, 21%), and policy makers (5/29, 17%). Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Stakeholders considered 26 different types of technologies to be relevant for enabling independent living. Only 6 out of 26 (23%) types of technology were mentioned by all stakeholder groups. Care professionals mentioned fewer different types of technology than other groups. All stakeholder groups felt that the implementation of technology for aging in place can be considered a success when (1) older adults' needs and wishes are prioritized during development and deployment of the technology, (2) the technology is accepted by older adults, (3) the technology provides benefits to older adults, and (4) favorable prerequisites for the use of technology by older adults exist. While stakeholders seemed to have identical aims, several underlying differences emerged, for example, with regard to who should pay for the technology. Additionally, each stakeholder group mentioned specific steps that need to be taken to achieve successful implementation. Collectively, stakeholders felt that they need to take the leap (ie, change attitudes, change policies, and collaborate with other organizations); bridge the gap (ie, match technology with individuals and stimulate interdisciplinary education); facilitate technology for the masses (ie, work on products and research that support large-scale rollouts and train target groups on how to use technology); and take time to reflect (ie, evaluate use and outcomes).

CONCLUSIONS: Stakeholders largely agree on the direction in which they should be heading; however, they have different perspectives with regard to the technologies that can be employed and the work that is needed to implement them. Central to these issues seems to be the tailoring of technology or technologies to the specific needs of each community-dwelling older adult and the work that is needed by stakeholders to support this type of service delivery on a large scale.

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