HomeLab enables researchers to study how to help older people and people with challenges live safely and as independently as possible at home.
HomeLab is a ‘home within a lab’ where researchers can invent and test new products to help older people and those with disabilities stay at home longer and more safely. The lab resembles a typical single-storey dwelling with functional plumbing and wiring. Study subjects can occupy the living space and test innovations in a real-life setting, while researchers can observe all studies from an overhead catwalk.
HomeLab provides a lab environment for early testing of prototypes and processes before they are deployed in trials in real homes. Researchers often use volunteers who are trained as actors to reproduce the abilities, behaviours and reactions of people with specific physical, sensory and cognitive impairments.
Our vision is to develop a platform where different technologies are seamlessly integrated to provide a safe and enabling environment that will allow more people to safely age in their own homes. The technologies will include sensors in the rooms, wearable sensors in clothing and domestic robots. These technologies will help with daily tasks, monitor health and safety, and supervise treatments including nutrition and exercise.
Researchers are developing intelligent home systems that can help older adults and people with disabilities stay safely in their homes and improve their independence and quality of life. These systems will provide automated reminders for daily tasks, respond to emergency situations and provide cognitive and social support. Future research will expand these systems to be able to detect changes in a person’s health and provide warnings before the person’s situation deteriorates.
Other researchers are developing advanced technologies to help caregivers manage common stressful, physically demanding tasks involved in caring for someone at home, such as lifting, bathing and toileting. These products will be affordable, practical and easy to install without requiring modification or renovation of the home.
HomeLab is constructed using residential materials. It has a typical electrical panel and plumbing. There is no ceiling so that monitoring equipment can be suspended from above and researchers can watch from a gallery surrounding it on 3 sides. Electrically operated ceiling blinds can be deployed to protect privacy in the bathroom. HomeLab is designed to reproduce challenges to accessibility that are seen in typical residential environments, such as cramped bathrooms. There are stairs that lead to a small platform representing the potential for a second floor.
- It has been estimated that 27% of families in Ontario have provided care continuously for the last 2 years.
- Almost half of family caregivers report a high level of physical and mental stress while 14 per cent experience physical pain.
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