Ambient Assistive Technologies (AAT): socio-technology as a powerful tool for facing the inevitable sociodemographic challenges?
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, January 2010
Astrid M Schulke, Herbert Plischke, Niko B Kohls
Due to the socio-demographic change in most developed western countries, elderly populations have been continuously increasing. Therefore, preventive and assistive systems that allow elderly people to independently live in their own homes as long as possible will become an economical if not ethical necessity. These respective technologies are being developed under the term "Ambient Assistive Technologies" (AAT). The EU-funded AAT-project Ambient Lighting Assistance for an Ageing Population (ALADIN) has established the long-term goal to create an adaptive system capable of improving the residential lighting conditions of single living elderly persons also aiming at supporting the preservation of their independence.Results of an earlier survey revealed that the elderly perceived their current lighting situation as satisfactory, whereas interviewers assessed in-house lighting as too dark and risk-laden. The overall results of ALADIN showed a significant increase in well-being from the baseline final testing with the new adaptive lighting system.Positive results for wellbeing and life quality suggest that the outcome effects may be attributed to the introduction of technology as well as to social contacts arising from participating in the study. The technological guidance of the study supervisors, in particular, may have produced a strong social reactivity effect that was first observed in the famous Hawthorne experiments in the 1930s. As older adults seem to benefit both from meaningful social contacts as well as assistive technologies, the question arises how assistive technology can be socially embedded to be able to maximize positive health effects. Therefore ethical guidelines for development and use of new assistive technologies for handicapped/older persons have to be developed and should be discussed with regard to their applicability in the context of AAT.
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