Participative approaches for „Technology and autonomous living“

To develop technology that truly improves the quality of life of the elderly, the key actors should have a say as early as the development stage.

As engineers are often not very familiar with participation, this project identified basic factors that are important for successful participation in technology development processes of ambient assisted living. Against the background of increasing lifespan in Europe and the prospect that the group of older people will constantly be growing during the next decades, the societal need to actively tackle various resulting areas of concern is evident.


The Austrian national R&D program benefits aims to address these issues by boosting research and development of technology for autonomous aging. Of particular importance is the attempt to provide adequate and assistive technologies in order to enable the elderly to stay at their homes as long as possible, to raise their quality of life while staying at home and to ensure their ability to actively participate in social life. The expected socio-economic benefits of assistive technologies on the one hand and the potential unintended negative impacts of these technologies at the individual and the social level on the other hand, raise potential conflicts of interests such as, for example, economic efficiency versus social needs.

Apart from sustainability efforts, a long-term perspective is therefore necessary. By the same token, conflicting issues are often highly normative and hence participative strategies seem promising – considering that they embrace user integration activities at all stages of a potential project (application, research, development, implementation, market approach, distribution …) as well as monitoring activities.

Selbstbestimmung vs. technische Effizienz

Das Thema autonomes und aktives Altern integriert gesundheitliche und soziale Aspekte und ist ein nachhaltigkeitsrelevantes Thema. Es geht um langfristige Planung, Gerechtigkeit und Selbstbestimmung – die sozio-ökonomische und soziale Dimensionen stehen fallweise im Widerspruch zu technischer Effizienz. Dadurch ist die Forderung der Erhöhung der Lebensqualität älterer Menschen auch mit den für Nachhaltigkeit typischen Inhalten und Zielkonflikten konfrontiert. Partizipativen Entscheidungsfindungsprozessen im Rahmen der Gestaltung von Technologien haben daher eine besondere Rolle.

The project pTA Ageing aimed to identify

Participatory TA Ageing

  • areas of interest for potential future topics to be tackled by the program,
  • the relevant groups in terms of key players, stakeholder and (end-)users,
  • potential pitfalls that should be prevented in the course of the program.

Woven together these issues will serve as a basis to successfully apply participative strategies on program and project-levels and to clarify the requirements and conditions to be met to consider social needs and users’ perspectives and shape technologies at a very early phase of the technological development.


11/2007 - 04/2008