About the project

AgeInPlace is a project jointly funded by the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership and the UW-Madison Graduate School. Our primary goal was to identify, document, and visualize everyday activities of older adults at home, common barriers that hinders their activities, and how home modification done to these homes influence health related behaviors. To this end, our research team employed a set of cutting edge technology including 3D scanning, tracking biomarkers, as well as multiple housing accessibility assessment tools completed by trained assessors. 

Housing accessibility is no longer an individual medical issue but a public health challenge. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, 40% of American households will have someone with disability in less than 15 years. In contrast, only 1% of American houses are ready to accommodate their needs. Large legislative efforts to establish accessibility standards tend to exclude single-family homes, leaving the matter to market-driven forces while the educational sector has been slow to raise awareness amongst future housing professionals, who will eventually lead the market. It is necessary to invest in generating research evidence, innovation in housing policy, generating housing design guidelines that will feed into educating current and future housing professionals. 

The older adults’ life at home is extremely important in understanding many critical health care issues at home, but is incredibly difficult to access for researchers to study about it. Our research team tracked older adults’ location, movement, activities, biomarkers, functional independence, and life satisfaction for 24~48 hours before and after the home modification. This complex data set is then overlaid and visualized with 3D scanned homes. Following the footsteps of older adults for a day or two gives us good insights into their everyday struggles, which may not be easy for people without disabilities to imagine.


Participants and Their Homes

We originally planned to recruit 30 people over the course of two years. However, at the time of COVID 19 shutdown in mid March, 2020, nine months into the project, we recruited 24 participants, and completed 20 pretests and 8 post tests. While the future of this project remains uncertain because we are working with older adults, who are the most vulnerable to the current pandemic, we hope to continue this study in the near future. 

The average of our participants was 73.11 (62~89yrs.) with varied income levels. They lived in various housing types including single detached houses (9), rental apartments (3), condominiums (4), and Townhomes (1). 

We conducted interviews with older adults in their home to explore housing accessibility and its related health issues such as their functional independence, satisfaction with their daily activities, psychological well-being, sedentary behaviors and acute stress responses in conducting daily activities. The measurement was done through 4~5 intensive interview visits per participant, which scheduled between before and after home modifications. 

We used multiple data collection methods. The biomarkers and movement data were collected through a wristband. This dataset included heart rate, inter-beat intervals electrodermal activity (EDR), 3-axis accelerometer, and skin temperature. Some of these data was used to arrive at sedentary behavior and acute stress responses of our participants. Their homes were scanned using LiDAR. The LiDAR scanner provided both depth and color, which then were stitched together to create a 3D reconstruction of the entire house. Home accessibility scores were collected by two members of the research team, who are trained in home assessment using two established tools called Housing Enabler (HE) and In-Home Occupational Performance Evaluation (I-HOPE).