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How Home Architecture Can Help Seniors Live Healthier


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © Dreamstime

Sensor technologies that work within a home can be integrated to find patterns in the routines of daily living for the elderly. Such sensing technologies would send an alert if they notice an interruption in patterns — thus, helping to keep seniors on their goal toward healthy living. (1)

I suppose the main idea behind this use of sensing technology is to make the sensing network seamlessly fade into the background of household living. Without having to push an alert button, make an emergency phone call, or be the subject of surveillance — seniors can go about their lives living more independently and perhaps confidently. (1)

The challenge with such a system resides in determining what senior behavioral patterns to watch. For example, a senior may want to break with routine on a particular day without sounding an alarm. Perhaps it is best for such systems to sense patterns in behaviors like medication intake, daily grooming, or restroom usage — things that must happen when a senior is living at home. However, it remains to be seen as to whether seniors would want such sensing technologies to track these daily routine activities.

Perhaps if a senior wants to live independently, then this could be a way to do it in the future. After all, they may not mind a sensing system tracking their daily routine if it means that they get to live in their own home for more years.

To push this idea a step further — I wonder what would happen if such sensing technologies used the patterns they detect to actually help seniors with their everyday tasks, activities, and behaviors. Might the sensing technologies be able to do more than send an alert to those emergency workers waiting to help? Perhaps the system could help seniors by sending them friendly reminders, inspirational messages to lift their spirits or motivate them to exercise, eat healthy, or to go outside for some fresh air.

In the end, a more responsive architecture can help seniors not only when they may face trouble, but also when times are good — to aid them with prevention of illness or accident by helping them to live healthier. The applications are many. The key is to use one’s imagination to find the right balance between knowing what patterns to sense and putting collected data to good use.


(1) Lynn, Kecia. Using Sensor Networks to Track Seniors In Their Homes. Big Think. November 15, 2012.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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