The Living Lab
The elderly care system requires a fundamental change in how and where we provide care. In the coming years, the home environment will remain the most critical location for care delivery and home technology will play a crucial role in this. Individuals with dementia often have difficulties with daily routines and activities that go along with it. They may become more passive and sometimes get lost. Their forgetfulness can disrupt their daily and nightly routines and eating patterns, which can cause them to decline more quickly. Caregivers often help with daily activities such as eating, getting up and going to bed. But is it possible for a house that takes care of these tasks? Can we develop a house that takes care of someone? A ‘smart’ home that guides the resident in their daily life? In the Empathic Home Living Lab we are researching the possibilities of developing a home that can provide assistance with daily activities and promote self-reliance for individuals, particularly those with dementia and chronic illnesses. By integrating advanced technology, these homes have the potential not only to assist individuals with chronic conditions, but also to promote disease prevention by stimulating individuals’ ability to cope with physical, social and emotional challenges in life. In the empathetic home, the focus is on technological possibilities that promote self-reliance. We develop a personalized approach and use intelligent, adaptive technologies, so that the developed design solutions meet the current and future needs and preferences of residents.
To develop innovative design solutions, it is essentil to bring together parties from various sectors such as technology, construction and healthcare in a collaborative process. The Empathetic Home is based on a ‘standard’ house in social housing and can function as a caregiver. From this foundation, various projects have been initiated that involve co-creation with different parties to take concrete shape.
In the Empathic House, we experiment with both spatial, social and circular aspects and use sustainable materials and solutions. For instance, the Empathic House not only includes a heat pump but also an ‘active’ attic (smart, circular, temporary, lightweight, transportable, energy-providing, sustainable) that brings additional daylight into the underlying house. The house, located at the De Kleefse Waard industrial park, serves as a laboratory for knowledge transfer and the practical application of theoretical concepts from research projects on smart living environments.
The projects within the Empathic Home aim to create innovative design solutions for constructing homes for vulnerable people, particularly those with dementia, but also for children with autism or people with disabilities. We are exploring how incorporating user-centered technology in the living environment can positively impact the health and well-being of (vulnerable) residents, with the objectives of enhancing self-reliance and community reliance, minimizing perceived vulnerability and minimizing associated societal costs.
The outcome so far
The House has been used for several years as a showcase for those interested in the latest technology, as well as a testing location for projects in which technology is tested, the first user tests are carried out or that are additional to research in Living Labs. The House is increasingly being used as a hybrid learning environment for both professionals and students. Students frequently work on projects within the House, and it also serves as a venue for inspiration afternoons for various organizations, companies and residents. The technology used in the house can also be applied to other projects, such as the SLIMme Wijk project.