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Is research on ‘smart living environments’ based on unobtrusive technologies for older adults going in circles? Evidence from an umbrella review

Abstract

Context and aims

To enable ageing in place, innovative and integrative technologies such as smart living environments may be part of the solution. Despite extensive published literature reviews on this topic, the effectiveness of smart living environments in supporting ageing in place, and in particular involving unobtrusive technologies, remains unclear. The main objective of our umbrella review was to synthesize evidence on this topic.

Methods

According to the PRIOR process, we included reviews from multiple databases that focused on unobtrusive technologies used to analyze and share information about older adults’ behaviors and assessed the effectiveness of unobtrusive technologies to support ageing in place. Selection, extraction and quality appraisal were done independently by two reviewers.

Results

By synthesizing 17 published reviews that covered 191 distinct primary studies, we found that smart living environments based on unobtrusive technologies had low to moderate effectiveness to support older adults to age in place. Effectiveness appears to be strongest in the recognition of activities of daily living. The results must, however, be interpreted in light of the low overall level of evidence, i.e., low methodological value of the primary studies and poor methodological quality of the literature reviews. Most reviews concluded that unobtrusive technologies are not mature enough for widespread adoption.

Conclusion

There is a necessity to support primary studies that can move beyond the proof-of-concept or pilot stages and expand scientific knowledge significantly on the topic. There is also an urgent need to publish high quality literature reviews to better support policy makers and funding agencies in the field of smart living environments.

Citation

Tannou, T., Lihoreau, T., Couture, M., Giroux, S., Wang, R. H., Spalla, G., ... & Bier, N. (2023). Is research on ‘smart living environments’ based on unobtrusive technologies for older adults going in circles? Evidence from an umbrella review. Ageing Research Reviews, 84, 101830.

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