Category: Social and Community Context

30 - “But I’m not ready yet” – Intra- and Interpersonal Adoption Processes of Personal Emergency Response Systems among Older Adults

With the help of technology-based devices and services such as personal alarm systems, smart homes, and medication dispensers, older adults may be better able to “age in place”, that is, to live in their homes and communities for as long as possible, hence reducing healthcare costs while increasing older adults’ quality of life. Current research suggests that the adoption of quality of life technologies is a complex process of negotiating needs and anticipated impacts marked by the interaction of technological, personal, and social/societal characteristics and circumstances. How these interactions play out is, however, unclear.

The purpose of this study was to analyze the meaning of Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) for older adults and the intra- and interpersonal processes that lead to acceptance or rejection of such devices. In-depth Interviews with 20 participants, who were PERS users or were considering getting a PERS, were analyzed using grounded theory methodology.

Preliminary results indicate that older adults postponed their decision about PERS to an unknown future as they struggled to reconcile the meaning of the device for their self-image as self-sufficient individuals. At the same time, participants faced increasing pressure from their children, who use a variety of strategies to push their parents to get a PERS. In many cases, however, participants faced a discrepancy between their internal self-assessment and the external assessment, leading to the conclusion that they did not need a PERS. Although they internally disagreed with their children, participants rationalized their children’s persistence as acts of love and care. Because participants felt indebted to their children who often provide crucial support, they did not want risk their relationship and avoided conflicts by any means. Even when children unilaterally decided to get a PERS, participants rationalized their children’s behavior, stating well-intended motives.



Jai Kim

Helene Riess

University of California

Helene Riess is a doctoral candidate in the Community Health Sciences Department at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. In her research, Helene uses qualitative and quantitative methods to explore and analyze adoption processes of health-related technologies among older adults. She received a Bachelor's degree in Bioinformatics from University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and a Master's degree in Epidemiology from the University of Munich.