What existing technological devices are available to support older people in their neighbourhood and city environments as they age? Using an inventory of available and emerging technological devices, this paper finds many devices address older people’s mobility and safety as pedestrians or in motorised vehicles.

For the attention of: Urban planners and designers; policy-makers and researchers working on ageing

The problem: Around the world the population is aging. Aging brings changes in vision, hearing, mobility, and cognition, making it difficult and dangerous for older people to move around in the city. Technologies may be able to help ameliorate the challenges, allow older people to remain living in the community longer, and increase their sociability and quality of life.

What we did and why: While much has been written about technologies helping older people at homes and in healthcare facilities, less attention has been paid to technologies used in the neighbourhood and city environments; including community open spaces, streets, parks, and transportation. What new urban-scale technological devices are available to support older people age in place? The answers help cities and practitioners understand opportunities and gaps in new technological devices to create more age-friendly spaces.

What our study adds: We provide an inventory of urban-scale technological devices that support older people to use their neighbourhood and city environments more safely, effectively, and independently.

  • We examine the devices through two factors: the life domains they serve and the type of technology function.

  • We draw out implications for where technologies could be developed further.

We are then able to discuss how urban-scale technologies could serve older people better and also look at the challenges, which include affordability and coordination.

Implications for city policy and practice: The inventory of new urban-scale technology helps to equip urban planners and designers with new technological solutions in building age-friendly cities.

  • City policy can foster the development of technologies to encourage social interaction in outdoor spaces.
  • City policy could promote age-friendly services to connect older people to the devices and encourage creative business models and public programs to improve device affordability.
  • Planning and design practice can be used to enhance the urban infrastructure to support use of these devices.

For further information: The Healthy Places Design Lab at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Full research article: Technological devices to help older people beyond the home: an inventory and assessment focusing on the neighborhood and city scales by Yingying Lyu and Ann Forsyth