The demographic change in western societies has been named many unfavorable things. Instead of applauding the ever increasing life expectancy, ageing is often framed as a problem. Fatalists have named our ageing societyies an »age-tsunami« and technosolutionists eagerly continue to offer technological solutions. The spectrum of technosolutionistic approaches spans from autonomous robots that remind older adults to drink plenty of water to always-on cameras that raise an alarm when older adults fall or forget to switch off the stove. Colloquially known as ambient assisted living, many such projects overexert technological solutions for societal problems. As it is often the case, technological solutions are proposed before humane, cultural, and societal problems are fully understood.
In 2014 the BMBF set up a funding scheme, aiming at rethinking technology and age through an interdisciplinary lens. A total of eight radically interdisciplinary research groups received funding of up to eight years to holistically engage in interdisciplinary competencies at the intersection of technology and ageing.
Within this context, I received a total of 2.5 Mio Euro funding for the Miteinander group at TU Chemnitz, of which I was principal investigator from 2015 to 2019.
The Miteinander project explores novel modes of co-creation together with older adults. Through progressive interactive co-design tools, methods, and labs we engage older adults in Participatory Design of smart connected technology in the context of their homes and neighborhoods. By designing interactive co-design tools and methods we contribute novel ways to explore, appropriate, understand, and critically reflect design spaces within the smart home and the Internet of Things (IoT). With open public design labs we also contribute to the understanding of how to establish and maintain sustainable Participatory Design work together with older adults.
The group received further funding until 2022 and my enthusiasm continues, as a plethora of participatory and design-oriented projects follow in the footsteps of Miteinander. Among these are Mitmach X at TU Chemnitz, Rethicare at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and the special interest group Participatory Design in the section Human Computer Interaction at the Gesellschaft für Informatik (German equivalent to the ACM).