Life-based design to combat loneliness among older people

Jaana Leikas, Pertti Saariluoma, Rebekah Ann Rousi, Erkki Kuisma, Hannu Vilpponen


Technologies should be constructed to improve the quality of life. They are meant to help people in realizing their action goals in life, and thus, making life easier. Thus, to improve people's quality of life, technology should not exist for itself, but rather for bringing added value to people's daily life (Cockton 2008; Leikas and Saariluoma 2008; Mesthene 2003). This is the key to consumer satisfaction. Developers should understand how people can and wish to live with technology, not only how they use it. For example, nanotechnology, which is used in designing paper machines, does not exist for its own sake; rather it guarantees, e.g., that the newspapers we read during breakfast look appealing.

The concept of user need and its variations has been used to point out that technologies are made to serve people. This concept has also found a solid role in the design of functionalities of technologies from a human point of view (Kaasinen 2003; Pahl et al. 2007; Ulrich and Eppinger 2008). However, the connections between various technologies and everyday life are rather complex. Thus a mere intuitive idea of a user or customer need is seldom sufficient for designing artefacts or systems that would improve the quality of people’s daily life. Relying only on this particular concept leaves many important questions unasked.

The current human-technology interaction (HTI) research has brought user needs to the fore with its emphasis on assessing the experience of interacting with technology already in the process of being developed. HTI research thus concerns mainly immediate usage situations; it does not provide any concepts for studying those needs that arise from the entire contents of people’s life and that could be met with the help of technology. Such design would have significant novelty value to the user in the short run, but its use could decrease in the long run if the product itself did not fit in the user’s form of life (Marchitto and Cañas 2011).

Concentrating only on immediate usage situations easily sets aside the more important question of what a technology is actually used for. In addition to examining user needs in usage situations, it is important to ask how the analysis of human life could be integrated in human-technology interaction (HTI) design. All too often projects in ICT-service design have failed due to the fact that their design has been based on intuitive thinking of human-technology interaction instead of research on people’s actions, goals and daily life. The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), for example, failed because the starting point for the design was the invented technology and the new ways to apply it. Issues such as user acceptance and user experience were tackled too late (Ramsay and Nielsen 2000). These kinds of technology-driven cases, with the starting point in the technology itself (Rosson and Carrol 2002), are common in the area of technology design. They may serve well in developing new technologies as such. However, to ensure that we have products that satisfy the users and fit into their daily routines, an analysis of people’s lives and living conditions is needed (Leikas 2009; Saariluoma and Leikas 2010). Furthermore, we need clear conceptualizations and methodological processes that would describe how to apply this knowledge in technology design. Efficient design procedures would mean satisfied users and lead to less costly solutions for clients (Mayhew and Tremaine 2005).

Form-of-life analysis: the Whys and What fors

The principal aim of Life-based design (LBD) is to release technology that will be widely accepted by people (Leikas 2009; Saariluoma and Leikas 2010; Saariluoma and Leikas 2011). This is realised by a thorough exploration of people’s forms of life, values and everyday contingencies and an efficient integration of these into the design as the actual drivers of HTI design processes. LBD is a multi-dimensional and holistic approach, which emphasises the importance of understanding people’s lives as a basis for the creation of design ideas and for concept design. It derives design goals for new technologies from human research based on the analysis of forms of life. A holistic approach means that, fundamentally, all design issues in LBD are biologically, psychologically and socio-culturally motivated.

The process of LBD begins with a form-of-life analysis and ends by clarifying the way in which new technologies can be incorporated as working innovations into life. Different phases in the procedure guide the designers' thinking along the design process. People's forms of life may differ according to the combination of a number of factors such as age, family and marital status, social status, profession, health issues, education, gender, and skills. These factors ultimately impact everyday needs, e.g., related to communication and companionship. These two in turn influence the ways in which people experience and evaluate available products and services and the kind of ‘worth’ that technology could offer them (Cockton 2006).

Being the main component of LBD, the form-of-life analysis aims at discovering information about different facts of life, i.e., different situations in life that people live in, their values and actions (Leikas 2009; Saariluoma and Leikas 2010). The nformation that is gathered in the very first stage of the design process is then efficiently entered into the design with the help of technology-supported actions. The general goal is to get a clear understanding of the properties of that particular form of life. The main steps in this investigation are:

 -       Analysis of a selected form of life,

-       Definition of design goals;

What people need in their life, and how technologies could improve their life,

-       Analysis of the role and function of the technology in use;

How technology is used in life to reach the action goals.

-       Explication of design relevant problems;

Extraction of all the design-relevant human-based problems to define possible problematic side issues and putting them under scrutiny,

-       Analysis of typical actors;

A realistic understanding about potential users or actors and their properties, such as education, age, gender or technology skills,

-       Analysis of contexts;

Including both physical and social conditions and social relations activated before, after and when using the technology,

-       Analysis of other relevant characteristic actions.

The form-of-life analysis should generate human requirements for the product or service. These human requirements define how people’s life in a specific form of life should be improved. This is information which explains the Why’s and What for’s that should guide the design process from the beginning to the very end. The human requirements create the basis for the next phase in the design by introducing the design theme and the explanatory facts behind it. They are based on the methods and results of human life sciences and do not yet define the requirements for technological concepts, which could be used in addressing the defined design goals of the specific form of life.

Situations in life constitute different facts of a form of life that make the kinds of real needs that arise from people’s everyday contexts understandable. They include actions, tasks and activities (Anderson 1983, 1992; Sun 2008; Kuutti 1996; Mayhew 1999; Nardi 1996). The circumstances of a situation in life can be determined by, e.g., illness, wealth or poverty, youth or old age. The importance of situations in life is that they dictate what life can be and thus can make it comprehensible as to what kinds of everyday contexts people live in. To use an extreme example, poor women in developing countries cannot easily get education, but in developed countries it is quite possible even for older adults to study at universities.

Of course, situation in life is one but not the only pivot concept upon which LBD can be grounded. There are other ways to carry out LBD. Values and actions in life can equally well serve as starting points. We can design for some defined systems of values or for some specific action. There are also other types of facts in life that we can begin with. However, the situation in life is an important ground, and therefore there is some justification in choosing it here as a pivot problem.

Loneliness - a situation in life

This paper introduces loneliness as a situation in older adults’ lives, for which to apply LBD. We assume that reduction of the effects of loneliness or the feelings of loneliness would improve the quality of life of older people, which in turn could add new value to their lives and also substantial benefit for the relatives and the society as far as the homecare of the elderly is concerned. Our aim is to illustrate the kinds of design processes needed when developing services based on these considerations.

Loneliness is a factor that in most cases essentially decreases the quality of life (Cattan et al. 2005; Masi et al. 2010; Rosedale 2007; Russell et al. 1984; Stokes 1985). Many older people experience loneliness: up to 32% of adults over 55 report feeling lonely at any given time (Masi et al. 2010). Loneliness is unlike social isolation, which appears often simultaneously with loneliness. Our social networks can usually be objectively measured, but loneliness is always a subjective feeling. For example, living alone does not necessarily mean that a person is lonely, whereas someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by many people. It is clear that loneliness can provoke depression in the way that a person without contacts to other people can become depressed and turn inwards (Stuart-Hamilton, 2000). Loneliness can be negative, but depending on people and context it can also become a positive experience of solitude.

It has been noticed that people experiencing loneliness have more interpersonal mistrust than those who do not. They rate themselves more negatively, and do not trust themselves as much as those who feel less lonely (Masi et al. 2010). They also have a lower feeling of self-worth, and are more likely to expect others to reject them. They behave in ways that increase the probability of rejection. Shyness, anxiety and anger tend to be higher among those suffering loneliness. Overall, lonely people seem to lack self-confidence and social skills (Cattan et al. 2005; Masi et al.; 2010).

The loneliness of older people differs from loneliness among other age groups (Asher, Hymel and Renshaw 1984; Cattan et al. 2005). It plays a crucial role in older people’s social capacity. According to studies, approximately 30% of older people are in danger of becoming isolated due to a decreased number of social relationships (Holmén et al. 1992; Prince et al. 1997; Samuelsson et al. 1998; Tijhuis et al. 1999). Changes in social practices, such as less visiting among neighbours, more home based entertainment, and changing socio-demographic patterns, such as a larger number of older people living alone, have led some older people to experience diminution in contacts and communication. Even older people who have children and who are visited regularly by them sometimes lack companionship and opportunities for involvement with peers.

When entering the fourth age, and especially the last elderly phase, the feeling of loneliness tends to become even more common. The fourth age is a phase when a person needs an increasing amount of help from others to manage in everyday activities (Stuart-Hamilton 2000). During the fourth age, the need for care and dependence on others increases due to illnesses and declining functional capacity. Also, during this period the need for social services, especially health care services, increases (Karisto and Konttinen 2004; Jyrkämä 2005). This is influenced by loss in meaningful relationships and a decline in functional capacity, which is often a result of restrictions caused by chronic illness and lack of meaningful participation. Health problems prevent some people from getting out, and this may also lead to boredom and loneliness. Studies show that living alone and being socially isolated tend to increase the likelihood of experiencing loneliness. In contrast, having an intensive social network decreases the feeling of loneliness (Jylhä 2004).

Studies concerning the relationship between old age and the feeling of loneliness are somewhat contradictory. In general, cross-studies show that people feel lonely more often when older than during their younger years (Holmén et al. 1992; Prince 1997). On the other hand, it has been shown that age as such has no clear connection to the increase of loneliness, and that the incidence of loneliness is relatively stable among age cohorts (Creecy et al. 1985; Samuelsson 1998). The number of people experiencing loneliness seems to increase among people over 75 years of age but evens out after the age of 90 (Anderson 1992). Moreover, men of a much older age have been found to have more experiences of loneliness than those of younger ages, which may be related to moving to institutionalised care, becoming widowed or experiencing poor health (Tijhuis et al. 1999). Age may also relate indirectly to the increasing experience of loneliness through weakening health and functional capacity (Holmén et al. 1992; Mullins and Elston 1996). Also, decline in cognitive capacity, low income, infrequent social relationships and diminishing participation in networks, as well as infertility, depression and anxiety are all related to the experience of loneliness (Lampinen 2004).

Depression amongst older people is unfortunately often a consequence of isolation. It can sometimes even lead to suicidal thoughts, and thus be the main reason for the decision for institutionalised care. There are different ways to prevent depression; physical exercise and social relationships are some. Studies show that physical activity strengthens the essential components of a mentally healthy human being (Korhonen 1999). These components include self-confidence, self-appreciation and self-assertion. It is also known that loneliness can have physiological consequences. Loneliness is a stress factor, which in turn has links with many aspects of our bodily health. Blood pressure, sleep problems, adrenocortical activity, diminished immunity, white blood cell count, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cholesterol are examples of the physiological problems associated with loneliness. Even cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease are a part of the problematic consequences. It is thus evident that loneliness can be serious and problematic for a human being, and interventions are needed to decrease the feeling of loneliness.

Foundations of intervention practices for loneliness

After studying the properties of the chosen situation in life, we can start designing concept ideas and technological solutions to improve the quality of life in this context. Loneliness is not a simple phenomenon, as it may have many different causes. Due to this, it is essential first to consider different types of interventions that are required. Thus, in the following, we discuss the foundations of intervention practices for loneliness, and explicate design-relevant problems.

Typical intervention procedures in cases of loneliness have been socially activating in nature. Naturally, the intervention practices must target not only social but also individual factors inherent in loneliness. Both are commonly eliminated by means of interaction, peer or treatment groups. In groups, social learning can undermine the underlying factors of loneliness. People experiencing loneliness can directly get in contact with other people and make friends; they can learn to cope with their emotions and communication practices. They can also learn social skills and improve their social cognition (Cattan et al. 2005).

More concretely, these groups can facilitate social skills training, caregiver support, education and self-help education. They also give social support. They can work against negative feelings experienced during social encounters and help people experiencing loneliness build their social self-confidence and break social isolation. An important theme is also that of correcting maladaptive social cognition.

Recently, contextual factors in relation to loneliness have been receiving more attention in scientific studies. The results indicate that the amount of participation in social networks and their positivity is lower among people experiencing loneliness (Stokes 1985). An especially important part of a social network is a spouse or a partner. It has also been noticed that people experiencing loneliness are often linked with others who are experiencing the same. It is more difficult in these cases to break out of loneliness if no additional intervention means are used. Negative interaction models are typical to people experiencing loneliness, as they often communicate negatively and thus raise negative feelings in their environment (Masi et al. 2010).

A relatively obvious contextual factor of loneliness is the geographic distance from relatives and friends. This kind of social isolation is a major property of loneliness. Therefore, one of the main strategies of intervention must be based on breaking the vicious circle of social isolation. Very often people are isolated as a consequence of their inability to get out and form social contacts, and in turn the isolation decreases their capacity in this respect. They may lose their social skills and thus be unable to form social relationships. Consequently, they will be trapped into loneliness. Social media now offers many possibilities to improve socialising with people who live geographically far apart. With the help of fast Internet connections, it is possible to keep up contacts with other people even between different continents. In this way, the issue of distance has become a technical matter. More challenging cases of loneliness are those in which people cannot organize any possible solutions to their problems of loneliness due to psychological or contextual reasons.

The properties of loneliness introduced above can be used in building intervention practices. Thus enhancing social relations becomes a significant challenge for designers who are interested in preventing loneliness by means of LBD. In the following, possible models of technological solutions for decreasing loneliness are introduced.

From situation in life to concept design

Life-based design stresses the importance of enhancing people's quality of life through understanding the cultural, social and psychological facts and values that explain people’s actions during a life stage (Leikas 2009). Loneliness has its roots in social and psychological factors. Consequently, avoiding loneliness is a social and psychological precondition for a good life.

In literature, there are observations which suggest that people experiencing loneliness actively use the Internet. This suggests that these might be people who could benefit from technological systems developed to decrease the feeling of loneliness (Stepanikova, Nie and He 2010). However, there is no definite positive relationship between the feeling of loneliness and, e.g., usage of social media (Prezza, Pacilli and Dinelli 2004).

The pivots in loneliness are social relations. Therefore, it is logical to think that social media might provide a proper technological context to develop services for intervention into lonelness. Social media refers to a group of mainly web 2.0 based Internet services, which allow users to provide content. Some of these are suitable for building genuine social relationships and some are much less so. Despite many anti-technology arguments throughout the mass media, communication technology and social media do not have to restrict or replace other forms of social contact. Quite the contrary, these technologies should be seen as tools to facilitate them.

As has been evidenced in the Facebook phenomenon, a vast majority of users appreciate the way they are able to re-connect with old acquaintances, friends and family with the help of social media. This would seem to be of benefit to older people, too. Being able to expand connections to reach those whom you once knew, or even making new friends with similar interests and experiences, should work to decrease the feeling of loneliness. Of course, one of the main obstacles for older people using social media as a tool for gaining and finding social contacts is not just whether or not they can use the technology but also whether or not their friends and peers are present in cyberspace.

Prevention of loneliness presupposes face-to-face contact, although genuinely interactive kinds of social media can form the basis for the prevention of loneliness. In this context, the interactive web refers to interaction among human beings. Not all types of social media and all types of Internet uses are suitable for creating social contacts. There are many non-personal social media services such as wiki blogs which are not interactive. These are not the most suited media for preventing loneliness. Instead, they are able to provide entertainment or infotainment.

One can also use social media in ways which are less purposeful. It is easy to hide oneself behind avatars instead of using the net to meet people in real life. Entertainment and simulated human relationships can reduce the sensations of loneliness, but they cannot replace genuine human face-to-face contact to prevent loneliness. This means that, generally speaking, web-phone, phone, chat-roulette, messenger and Facebook, might in principle, provide good tools for building relationships and finding people. However, they are not designed directly for these goals. The problem on a general level is that these services are not directly targeted to people experiencing loneliness and, therefore, they do not necessarily offer means to resolve difficulties people have with respect to their negative strategies and emotional patterns.

Possible models of technological solutions

In concept design, we innovate technical solutions to solve problems or to improve possibilities in a defined situation in life. This means that we define people’s actions that can be supported with a technology and the role of technology in achieving action goals. Here, the solution ideation is based on the idea of a service for lonely people. This means that anyone willing to look for help via the Internet could log into the service that provides all the major intervention aids for eliminating loneliness. The solution relates to what kinds of activities the service should provide to people experiencing loneliness. This is a central design problem. Therefore, we make some suggestions, which seek to explicate the process of designing a concept of service with different subservices.

The following subservices can be seen as logical steps in concept design:

1. Discourses;

a) Everyday chat - an easy way to build trust between people and to approach other people.

b) Hobbies - another important type of relatively neutral way to approach other people with similar interests.

c) Thoughtful consideration - earnest chats to deepen relationships.

2. Sharing;

a) Memoirs - memoirs and the possibility to find people with similar backgrounds, can be used in the search for friends.

b) Photographs –an easy way to communicate with people.

3.Tutorials (brief videos on communication, feelings and social habits);

a) Tutorials – brief pieces of information presenting typical problems associated with loneliness and coping with communication and emotional models.

b) Social discourse practices – can be helped by presentations.

4. Events;

a) Information about where one can meet other people.

5. Friend finder;

a) A service to contact other people via definable criteria.

The main design goal here is that the contents of the service are directly targeted towards older lonely people. This means that people who identify themselves in this group can immediately be included in and interact with the service. From this holistic service they can find what they desire, including other people with similar needs, just by logging into the service. Thus, one could say that this type of a service is in fact a special interest service for lonely people.

Older people as users of technology

According to the LBD paradigm, the main concern in design is to understand what the possible technological item is used for (Saariluoma & Leikas 2011). This is related to how people use technologies in their lives and the kinds of action goals they have when they use a specific technology. Another basic issue is to ensure that people can use the technology in question. This forms the problem of usability. At the conceptual design phase, it is important to discuss how people will use the product or service and what kinds of realistic possibilities they have for this. In addition, the intended users have to be considered in terms of their skills, willingness and facilities to use the technology being designed. This means that we have to have a good idea about what kinds of technologies older people have learned to use. This knowledge makes it easier for us to think about the criteria for user interface design.

Technology generations

Mental models of older people often reflect the historical timing of computing innovations and their diffusion into productive and cultural spheres, linked with the time period in which a cohort comes of age (McMullin et al. 2007). In designing for older people, research into technology generations can be of real benefit as it brings to the fore the kinds of mental models involved in the direct usability thinking of different age groups (Leikas 2009).

Sackmann and Weymann (1994) introduce four generations based on the experience of technology usage available in the formative period. These are the pre-technical generation, household revolution generation, advanced household technology generation, and computer generation. Studies have also outlined different technological eras (Lim 2010) generally divided into the ‘mechanical’ (M) era (people born before 1930), the ‘electro-mechanical’ (EM) era (people born 1930 – 1960), and the ‘digital-software’ (DS) era (people born after 1960). Lewis, Langdon and Clackson (2007) have similarly categorized the time era during which one was born and the interface technology. Their categories are the electro-mechanical era (pre-1928), followed by the remote control era (1928-1964), then the dominated by displays era (1964-1990), and finally the era where, post-1990, layered menu systems are generally prevalent and popular.

Three major interaction styles of consumer products have been identified by Docampo Rama (2001). These are the mechanical style (1930/1940), the electro-mechanical style (available 1930-1980), the display style (available 1980-1990), and the menu style (implemented 1990 ->). Docampo Rama (2001) introduces three technology generations, which are the electro-mechanical generation (those born before 1960), the display generation (those born 1960-1970), and the menu generation (those born after 1970). McMullin, Duerden Comeau and Jovic (2007) have studied the phenomenon from an ICT technology point of view and have discovered five technology generations. These are the pre-ATARI generation (those born prior to 1955), who came of age before computing technology had widespread cultural appeal or was widely used; the ATARI generation (those born 1955-1963) among whom the ATARI home video games became popular and in whose workplace the first PCs were introduced; the console generation (those born 1964-1973) who used the Commodore64, TRS-80, Tetris, Apple MacIntosh and Windows 3.0 and who had great opportunities to use the new computer technology at home; the Windows generation (those born 1974-1978) who used Microsoft, Windows 97/98, Excel, Adobe pdf, Email, SimCity, Doom and witnessed the launch of the Internet in the mid-1990s, although it was not immediately or widely embraced during this period; and finally the Internet generation (those born after 1978) who are familiar with the Internet, Yahoo, Google, Instant Messaging (MSN), Windows XP and iPods.

Usability and user experience

Usage of ICT technology is concentrated around a triangle which consists of the hand, eye and ear. Common examples of these devices are keyboards, mouse pointers, mobile phones, remote controls, card readers, digital displays of many household machines and the touch screens of different automated machines. In order to cope with the technologies in our everyday life we need to have relevant capacity at least in our hands, fingers and eyes. Unfortunately these are the very body parts that will eventually be affected by ageing and many will experience a decline in their capacity. Modern technology brings forth difficulties for older adults for two reasons (Leikas 2009). Firstly, design is not consistent with the experience that older people have gained from technology during earlier periods in their lives, i.e., it does not reflect the experiences of earlier technology generations.

The looks of the devices may be strange and the operational logics unfamiliar. User interfaces are incomprehensible, as they do not seem to have any relation to the life that the person has lived nor the experiences that he/she has earlier gained with tools and equipment. Secondly, the changes in people's physical and cognitive condition brings about many problems in using ICT appliances (Gill 2004). For example, hearing, vision and mobility impairments may arise in parallel, and combinations in these make it difficult to use ICT products and services. Decline in motor functions of the hand can make holding a handset difficult and keypad or touch screen operation slow and inaccurate. For users of a wheelchair or a walking stick, access to machines and devices can be difficult.

However, difficulties in using a technology do not always arise just from poor usability but also from many other factors, such as previous experiences in the usage of that technology. This is connected to the importance of consistency in operational logics of user interfaces. Thus the way of using devices and applications should be familiar and somehow congruent with earlier experiences. For many older adults with declining cognitive abilities and vision, consistency in the user interface is one important aspect of usability. The feeling of self-efficacy arises from the experience of competence, i.e., from the feeling that one is able to use a system or device. In older people's lives, self-efficacy is an essential factor of coping.

If we wish to eliminate the difficulties encountered with usability, it is essential to find usability metaphors which remind the user of past technologies, such as the use of the traditional ringtone as an option in modern mobile phones. It is also important to eliminate any unnecessary steps in accessing a service, and it is essential to consider the difficulties of usage caused by age-related decline in vision, hearing and dexterity. The main thing is to maintain familiarity with the kinds of interfaces the target people have used over the years.

Elimination of unnecessary steps in accessing the service can be achieved by icons with familiar metaphors for older people and accompanied by clearly readable texts. There must be direct icon based navigation, in which all conceptual themes, such as touch screens and other modern UI models, regardless of the age of the user, are considered.

Life-based design procedure for service design

The aim of this paper is to describe a model for the LBD procedure for a certain service based on a specific fact describing human life. This fact has been referred to as a situation in life, which means a stable contextual and psychological state in life. It is the kind of life fact which can be taken as a pivot problem for design thinking. In our example, the subject has been loneliness among older people.

First, we identified the situation in life as well as the form of life with which it is associated. After that we analyzed the main human properties of a particular situation in life. We then identified social isolation and the reasons for this isolation. We separated the cases where the cause for isolation is social and individual factors from those where the cause is contextual. Next, technical means for avoiding or at least decreasing these problems have to be sought. Finally, a usage culture for this type of technology among people who require it has to be created. This means that we have to solve the usability problems as well as inform people about the existence of the technology and create a need to use it. If any of these points in the road map remains unsolved, the attempt will fail.

The following steps summarize our procedure for service design to decrease the feeling of loneliness amongst older people:

1.    Identify the pivot problem

Loneliness among ageing people

2.    Analyse its human dimensions

Mental and conceptual properties of loneliness found in large psychological studies

3.    Conceptualize the technical solution models

A service for loneliness

4.    Harmonize the model with the human and contextual information

What kinds of sub-services are required?

5.    Analyse possible usability problems

Usability metaphors and simplified procedures

Icons and interaction language


Technology for older adults should not be targeted only at the design of technical aids for compensating the decline in functional capacity. It should be applied to support the strengths of older people and to facilitate their participation in society. The knowhow gained during the course of aging is a remarkable asset, which should be utilised in society in different ways. Older people have tacit knowledge of life, which is meaningful and beneficial for the whole community. This is why technological solutions should be facilitating the usage of this knowledge for the common good and increasing the role of and participation opportunities for older adults as members of society.

People should be adequately prepared for the technological change in the information society. The change should thus be carried out in terms of people, based on the life world and positive experiences they have of technology. These experiences form the true value that technology brings to the lives of people, and can be discovered only by focusing on people’s lives and the values that people follow in them. If this principle is accepted, the information society will proceed in a meaningful manner.

The issue of replacing social relationships with technology has many times been brought up in discussions about older adults and technology. This is of course, possible in cases where the already limited contacts of a lonely person are replaced by, for example, new solutions utilizing ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence. However, technology should be seen also as a facilitator for social networks. It cannot remove isolation, but it can remove the feeling of loneliness by creating social networking possibilities for people who are not able to leave their home due to a motor disability. This is why each case should be examined from the point of view of individual needs in relation to opportunities provided by technology.

The core idea of Life-Based Design is that the knowledge about the structure of the forms of life can be used when designing technologies such as ICT-services to improve the quality of life. In this way, we call attention to the fact that designing for life is focused on new possibilities instead of merely solving problems. Technology will ultimately change the structures of the society and daily lives of people in a profound way. What kinds of expressions the society will have depends significantly on the design approaches for ICT society. Promoting social relationships, preventing loneliness and facilitating meaningful roles for older people are all challenges for technology design. Life-Based Design is one potentially useful approach for meeting the human demands of the information society.


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