ElderHop aims to provide a complex solution to help elderly people keep up their daily activities outside of their homes, and in particular their active participation in one of the most important social activities they do on a daily basis – shopping. The elderly frequently face physical and psychological difficulties related to shopping, arising from restricted mobility or chronic ailments. Nonetheless, going out shopping is an essential part of many elderly people’s life, something they would by no means want to give up. ElderHop therefore offers a package of targeted applications that seeks to facilitate, rather than obviate, shopping. The solution should increase the sense of security, comfort, and self-esteem of elderly people through providing them easy-to use technologies.
ElderHop provides a distinctive concept based on two pillars. On the one hand, by offering a carefully assembled set of easy-to-use services, it enables the elderly to stay active in shopping, thereby increasing their sense of efficacy and independence. On the other hand, the system is devised so that its use creates frequent opportunities for social interaction between its users, e.g. sharing of information, joint use of the product, or synchronization of shopping activities.
A basic assumption of the project was that the elderly were familiar with TV-based services, and increasingly also with mobile technology. The consortium therefore decided to implement a prototype that connects the two technologies into an integrated system and develops a specific combination of features, designed for the special needs of the elderly and their families.
During the design and development process, priority had been given to the end-user expectations and needs, and the key goal had been to have a 360° view on users’ life. Involvement of end users in the development process was realized by focus group research, laboratory tests, and field tests. The product is designed for the specific needs of the elderly, but should also be attractive to younger generations seeking to enhance their shopping experience with selected features of the system.
The technical solution
Most of the individual services of ElderHop are separately available in the market already, but not in the comprehensive and optimized combination, focusing on the specific needs of the elderly (see Figure 1 for screenshots of the mobile version of the prototype). This unique combination meets the requirements of modern – aging – societies, and provides a specific, tailor-made solution based on smart devices.
The final product of the ElderHop project has many advantages over the current state of the art. The benefits it brings to elderly people include the following:
- The product exists first of all in a Windows 8 based version, which should bring down the entry barriers for elderly people, most of whom are already used to Windows on their home computer. This will make the adoption of the service easier.
- The product can be accessed on smart TV platforms, i.e., elderly users will not need to invest in getting familiar with new devices, they can access many of the functionalities of the service on their TVs, which they already know well. This also takes away the time pressure, allowing for a leisurely learning process. Furthermore, this allows them to do a fair amount of preliminary planning regarding their shopping and transport activities before they step out of their homes.
- ElderHop also provides useful information that is unavailable or hard to get on other channels. For example the price comparison application does not only show prices when elderly people plan their shopping activities, but also the weight of the products placed into the virtual shopping cart. Therefore, elderly people can make decisions whether they are able to carry the products home on their own or they need to get delivery assistance.
- ElderHop is social and personalized in the sense that end users can communicate with each other through the online messaging system, recommending products to each other and asking each other questions regarding products.
- Another important feature of the mobile facet of ElderHop is that it is accessible on smart phones. The version available on mobile devices is not only easy to use, but it is optimally simple, providing only the information that elderly people might in fact need during their shopping activities (i.e., while being on the way to and from the store and while being in the store).
In short, ElderHop provides a single, coherent, and sleek bundle of services that takes into consideration the specific needs of the elderly, enhancing their shopping experience, while sparing them of the daunting task of finding their ways in the complicated menus of smart phones and the arcane mazes of their app stores. Further expected benefits include the increased digital inclusion of the elderly through user-friendly interfaces adapted to their needs, and the assistance provided to the elderly in the search for special deals and discounts (i.e., helping them to save money).
Slideshow Pictures during Italian tests