Assistive Technologies for Healthy Living in Elders: Needs Assessment by Ethnography


The ATHENE (Assistive Technologies for Healthy Living in Elders: Needs Assessment by Ethnography) project, funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board under its Assisted Living Innovation Platform, is using ethnographic methods to illuminate daily living needs of older people. The overarching goal is to produce a richer understanding of the complex and diverse living experiences and needs of older people and how industry, the National Health Service (NHS), social services and third sector can work with older people to ‘coproduce’ useful and useable ALTs.

ALTs do not operate in isolation. Their uptake and use are mediated by features and routines in the domestic setting, as well as wider social factors relating to the family, community and public sector services. This means that the development of solutions must be grounded in the lived experiences of users. The integration of new technologies and existing domestic routines also requires a mutually adaptive and evolving process. Co-production (or corealisation) is a methodology for delivering innovation which focuses on user-centred, ‘design-in-use’ of both technology and practices through continually feeding back users’ experiences into ongoing design and development.

The ATHENE project consists of two phases. Phase one involves ethnographic studies of 30-50 individual cases to map the complex healthcare, social care and socio-cultural needs of older people and their carers from a range of ethnic and social groups. Phase two takes forward up to 10 volunteer cases to explore how older people and their families can work directly with industry designers to produce fit-for-purpose technologies, or adapt existing technologies, that fit in with people’s lives and lifestyles. The project will inform new ways for conducting the co-production of ALTs and identify effective ways of involving older people from different ethnic and cultural groups.

If you require more inforamtion about the ATHENE project please contact

Dr Joseph Wherton

Phone: +44 (0)20 7882 2512

Address: Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Yvonne Carter Building, 58 Turner Street, London, E1 2AB