COVID-19 and virtual assistants in the context of smart homes

A recent paper by Laura Sheerman, Hannah R., Marston, Charles Musselwhite, and Deborah Morgan elaborates on the potential of Virtual Assistants (VAs) at times of pandemic.
Smart age-friendly ecosystem framework. This figure has been reproduced from Marston & van Hoof (2019) under a CC BY 4.0 license.
The paper refers to age-friendly environments and gives examples of how VAs and IoT can support independent living at home, including at times of COVID-19. The research highlights the risks of digital divide, accessibility for persons with speech impairments, and the issue of affordability.
Read the paper here.

Dissemination and Communication Plan, activity and performance report

Homes4Life Deliverable D5.3 – Dissemination and Communication Plan, activity and performance report – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

The European project “Homes4Life” ( started in December 2018 and will end in November 2020. Its main output will be the development of a new European Certification Scheme for age-friendly housing in Europe. The scheme will be based on a long-term vision of people’s needs and requirements based upon a holistic life-course approach and a new conceptual framework for age-friendly housing. It will help develop improved home environments that foster our independence, supporting us to remain active and healthy, and integrating construction and digital solutions where this is beneficial.

The purpose of this report is to present the Homes4Life Dissemination and Communication plan which identifies, organises and defines the management and promotion of the Homes4Life project objectives and results.

The key underpinning concept of the Homes4Life dissemination & communication (D&C) strategy is to target key external stakeholders based upon a three-stage process going from awareness to understanding and ultimately to a point where stakeholders are applying and exploiting the Homes4Life project key outcomes. In the first 12 months of the project the main focus of the dissemination actions is on stage 1 of the dissemination strategy (i.e. dissemination for awareness). During the next 8 months of the project it is anticipated that project partners continue with stage 1, but as concrete results emerge and milestones achieved, the dissemination strategy moves to stage 2 (i.e. dissemination for understanding). In the final two months of the project the focus will mainly be on those stakeholders who have the ability to implement the Homes4Life vision and certification, and the dissemination strategy moves thus to stage 3 (i.e. dissemination for action) which will make use of the practical material for exploitation/implementation (such as the Certification scheme promotional package)

The report also gives a summary of all D&C activities conducted over the first period of the project, i.e. from M1 to M12. All targets which were set at the beginning of the project when establishing the D&C plan have been met or exceeded, with the exception of the two KPIs related to Social Media (Twitter) and the CoI, which are slightly under at the time of writing this report. Specific efforts will be dedicated to these two criteria over the second period of the project. Project partners participated to 19 events, have been active on social media, and several articles about the project have already been published or are in progress to promote the project, its ambition, and support the exploitation of its upcoming results.



Homes4Life Stakeholders Community of Interest

Homes4Life Deliverable D5.1 – Stakeholders Community of Interest – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

The Homes4Life “Community of Interest” (CoI) is a network of key stakeholders interested in following the developments of the project and as such, supposedly interested in topics at the crossroads of ageing, housing and the age-friendliness of the built environments. The successful delivery and take-up of the project productions will depend on the capacity of project partners to engage with a representative range of stakeholders to be involved for the adoption of an age-friendly approach to housing. This holds particularly true for the design and adoption of the Homes4Life Certification Scheme, main output of the project, that will be the subject of a dedicated exploitation scheme targeting specific categories of stakeholders.

In that context, the Community of Interest will play a crucial role, by allowing for the consortium both to communicate on the project results and to obtain stakeholders’ inputs. These stakeholders range from public authorities to construction and industrial experts, technologists, providers of personal household services and representatives of inhabitants and older adults – be they owners or tenants. After 12 months of project, the Community of Interest count 121 individual members from more than 20 different countries (as of Nov. 26th, 2019) – mainly in Europe. A large majority of those members wishes to be informed about the project progress and achievements. More than half of them is willing to contribute to the development of the Certification Scheme; a same share is interested to test it.

Members of the Community of Interest have the possibility to contribute to the project and bring external expertise. This has been the case for instance during the first stakeholder workshop organised in Brussels on 11 June 20191. The Community of Interest will be maintained after the end of the project for instance by the entity that will exploit the Certification Scheme. Such a Community will be critical after the end of the project to foster the uptake of the Certification Scheme and to be able to identify and contact future demo cases or early buyers.

The Community of Interest has been initiated by communicating about Homes4Life among all the partners networks. It keeps growing thanks to a snowball effect, as more and more stakeholders hear about the project, e.g. during conferences and events attended by the partners. During the remaining 12 months of the project, the consortium will keep exchanging with the Community of Interest about the work carried out, the deliverables published, the events we organise, etc. It is expected to reach 750 members by November 2020.

Homes4Life Functional brief

Homes4Life Deliverable D4.3 – Functional brief – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

European countries have witnessed the rising issue of ageing population and thus the level of awareness globally grows. Our living environments have a key role in enabling older citizens to stay active and participate in society and to have a full role in the community.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 20171), housing is one of the three pillars composing age-friendly environments, along with accessible outdoor environments, transport and mobility. The impact that our homes can have on our health and wellbeing is also something well acknowledged.

Considering this context Homes4Life project has the objective to overcome those barriers by the development of a European certification scheme for age-friendly buildings and neighbourhoods ready for wide-spread adoption by a dedicated community of lead users.

This functional brief is the document that formalizes the need of the Homes4Life certification scheme around Age Friendly Housing, and it details the expected functionalities of the certification scheme as well as the constraints (technical, regulatory, …) it will have to face.

It also synthetizes the work done in T2.4(Working Taxonomy) and complements it with the results from the analysis conducted in Task 3.1(Analytical KPI Framework) and Task 3.2 (Analysis certification schemes). This document settles the basis for the development of the Homes4Life Certification Scheme in Work Package 4: Certification Scheme of Homes4Life model.

The functional brief includes the approach to the Certification Scheme, considering the benefits for the end-user, the context where it will be developed, and the limits found in the existing schemes.

It also establishes the scope and the principles of the future H4L certification scheme, detailing its future clients, the kind of building typologies that will be certified, the phases of the building where it will be evaluated, the indicators that will be analysed and finally a first approach to the assessment system and to the scoring method that will be used.

The process to follow to achieve the development of the Homes4Life Certification Scheme and the phasing of the process are sketched giving a first idea of the future definition of the Homes4Life Certification Scheme that will be totally defined, tested and developed during the next twelve months of the project.

Homes4Life Certification Scheme Technical Reference Framework – version 0

Homes4Life Deliverable D4.1 – Version 0 of the Certification Scheme Technical Reference Framework – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

This document presents the Technical Reference Framework (TRF version 0) for the Homes4Life certification scheme. It lists all the requirements which will form the scheme in the future digital platform. It constitutes a provisional version of the TRF that will be further developed in v1 in M20 and final version in M22.

The main principles of a certification scheme are defined according to Certivéa’s experience and knowledge about certifications schemes. Specifics for Homes4Life certification scheme are described based on the deliverable D3.4: Homes4Life Functional brief.

The document goes through different aspects that must be considered when developing a Certification scheme. It details the main characteristics of a certification scheme, its principles and structure and general recommendations for its requirements.

Afterwards it focuses in the specific characteristics of the Homes4Life certification scheme, according to the Functional Brief (D3.4). Identification of the clients of the certification scheme, explanation of the scope of the certification scheme and description of the certification process where each requirement will be specified with its description and assessment method.

Finally, it describes the quality and validation process proposed for the Homes4Life certification scheme within the project.

This deliverable will be followed by two other versions of the TRF (v1 in deliverable D4.3 due month 20 and v2 in D4.4 due month 22).



Homes4Life report on Existing R&I initiatives

Homes4Life Deliverable D3.3 – Report on Existing R&I initiatives – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

This deliverable is focused on identifying and analysing existing research and innovation (R&I) initiatives and on detecting gaps and shortcomings in overcoming barriers for investments for generating age–friendly building stock (renovation and new buildings, including community integration). The analysis has been made between the partners of the projects for identifying the most significant projects in the European scenario. Furthermore, the analysis has been extended also to National and Regional projects to have a point of view focused on concrete and real scenario and a cross-cultural difference between projects from different countries or areas. The analysed projects came from several research and innovation programmes, e.g. H2020, Active and Assistive Living (AAL), More Years Better Lives Joint programming initiatives, etc. A selection of these projects has been made to provide a list of projects that can identify gaps to be covered from Homes4Life. The project has been divided in 3 major classes:

  • Large Scale IoT pilots
  • Smart living environments
  • Independent Living and Ageing well

For each categorises has been analysed several aspects:

  • A general description
  • Goals
  • Strengths and Opportunities
  • Weaknesses and Threats

The analysed projects have been chosen in different areas of research, e.g. psychological, social, architectural, urban, ICT to embrace all the main aspects that the certification scheme for age-friendly environment should cover.


Homes4life Certification Schemes Framework report

Homes4Life Deliverable D3.2 – Certification Schemes Framework report – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

What does already exist around certification of age friendly living environments? To face the development of Homes4Life certification scheme the existing certification, labelling schemes, guidelines and local and regional initiatives and laws must be identified and analysed. This deliverable goes though the existing and emerging certification and labelling schemes as well as guidelines and local experiences and analyses them to identify the gaps and barriers that these existing schemes have found for their implementation.

The purpose of this analysis is to pave the way for the definition of the functional brief in Task 3.4: Summary functional brief and to feed the Task 3.1 Analytical KPI framework.

The gap analysis will also enable partners to identify complementarity and compatibility requirements to be imposed on the new labelling scheme if it is to function in conjunction with and capitalize on the potential of existing national and sub-national schemes.

The main objective of this analysis is to identify not only the existing certification schemes, guidelines and initiatives around all the issues related to age-friendly housing to recognize the common points, but also gaps or uncovered fields that are considered fundamental for the Homes4Life Certification Scheme (CS).

The material analysed encompasses:

  • Certification Schemes (CS) and labels (LS): method and certificate issued by an independent body attesting the conformity (of a product, a service) to a scheme, a standard, or a regulation in force.
  • Guidelines: text setting goals to be achieved.
  • Local experiences: different initiatives at local level related to age-friendly housing.
  • Some result in guidelines, some in solutions repository.
  • Laws and regulations: regulations that refers to issues as social housing, housing for older people, housing design, building codes and any of the other technical issues identified.
  • Good practices: compilation of good practices about age-friendly housing.

On this basis Homes4Life partners have performed a research on existing CS and LS, guides, regulations and good practices from which they had to identify those that were related to some of the fields described below:

Quality of life as a general overall concept which covers all the other themes:

  • Habitability (indoor): Habitability refers to a dwelling having favourable conditions and being suitable for human habitation (for instance, in a physical domain, possessing working basic amenities and not being in substantial disrepair). Inside habitability other concepts are included, such as accessibility, safety, indoor comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Independent living, and all those products or services that foster it, such us technologies (e-health, robotics.) or home care services (formal or informal home care, household services …)
  • Smart readiness, concept that includes ICT user friendliness, IT openness and Security and Data Protection.
  • Community living: Outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, and housing. are key features of a city’s physical environment, as they have a strong influence on personal mobility, safety from injury, security from crime, health behaviour and social participation. 

    After the identification of all these different schemes and guidelines (34 certification/labelling schemes, 8 local initiatives, 10 laws and regulations and one good practice) a second selection process started.

    1st approach to select the schemes is related to the type of the identified schemes (certification, labels, guidelines, regulations…etc). According to partners expert criteria, certification scheme was selected because they include a series of requirements to be met, which match better with the Homes4life objectives and requirements structure.

    It was also considered the scope, certification schemes covering solely product certifications were discarded for further analysis because Homes4life certification should not be a product certification scheme but should cover the whole living environment.

    Regarding the fields to address, the analysis process has identified how different schemes report the already identified fields (Habitability, Independent living, Smart readiness and Community living).

    The approach to selected existing certification schemes to be analysed is based on the findings of WP2. It considers who the priority users are (user’s perspective), the functionalities or “home functions” and its connections to age-friendly environments. Task 2.4 Working Taxonomy, which is being developed in parallel to this task has identified different clusters to which the selected schemes should give response. These clusters are:

  • Physical cluster
  • Outdoor accessibility cluster
  • Personal cluster
  • Social cluster
  • Economic cluster 

    After this method 15 certification schemes were selected:

  1. The Design for All approach
  2. High Health Safety Label (HS2)
  3. The Habitat Senior Services label
  4. NF Habitat HQE certification
  5. R2S-Ready2Services Label
  6. VISEHA label
  7. HQE Sustainable Building Certification
  8. BREEAM Certificate
  9. The WELL building standard
  10. TQB assessment scheme
  11. AARP Livability Index – Great Neighbourhoods for all Ages
  12. WoonKeur
  13. Code of openness
  14. Home Performance Index
  15. HQE CS “Services residences”

After all this procedure and the analysis of the 15 selected certification schemes the main results from the technical point of view are the identification of several requirements and indicators that are already being approached in other certification schemes, even if they are not directly related with age-friendly living environments.

All these requirements and indicators can be found in Annex 3. In further tasks, a selection of them will be performed to advance in the KPI definition of Homes4Life.

On the other hand, this analysis has also resulted in the identification of some gaps concerning especially personal, social and economic clusters.

Most of the material found in the analysed CS deals with the physical aspects or outdoor accessibility of an age-friendly environment, although some of them have addressed specific topics such as services adapted to the older tenants or interconnectivity of IT systems, but they don ́t cover other fields in relation with the personal and social issues , or the economic factors.

In conclusion, the resulting challenge for the next steps is to define the requirements that the different users’ profiles have for a Homes4Life home in all the identified clusters: physical, outdoor accessibility, personal, social and economic cluster (defined in Task 2.4).It will also be required to specify new indicators that will cover the personal, social and economic fields that are essential in order to define the Homes4Life certification scheme, to achieve certified smart and integrated living environments for ageing well.

Homes4Life Innovation Analysis report | Charting Europe’s Innovation Landscape for Age-friendly Housing

Homes4Life Deliverable D2.5 – Innovation Analysis Report – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

Throughout Europe a variety of innovative pilot projects – or ‘experiments’ – are being implemented to improve the life-course resilience of existing and newly built home environments. These experiments reflect the distinct socio-economic context of their locations and, more importantly, they provide a glance into potential future directions for the development of age-friendly homes. It is important to take stock of this diversity in order to get ideas about the range of home environments into which the Homes4Life certification scheme might be introduced and therefore about the flexibility required by the certification scheme when it is deployed throughout Europe.

This report provides an overview of 67 ongoing experiments in the domain of age-friendly housing. By focusing on four countries – the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland and France – we draw more detailed attention to some of these experiments. Overall, we find that, besides the variation between these countries, there is a more important type variation in terms of differences in the character of these experiments and the directions proposed by these experiments. Most of the associated innovations tested in age-friendly home experiments are not primarily material or technical, but primarily social or conceptual in character (i.e. new organisational or everyday practices that re-arrange social relations or new housing concepts that bridge the divide between ageing in place individually and a nursing home). This variety of innovations tested in the experiments has been categorized into seven distinct innovation pathways: (1) Showcasing Technology, (2) Innovation Ecosystem, (3) Sheltered Elite, (4) Specific Community, (5) Conscious Retrofitting, (6) Home Sharing and (7) Retrovation Challenge.

The array of experiments and future directions identified in this report provides insights into the different kinds of home environments that the Homes4Life certification scheme could encounter when made operational. Specifically, we highlights that in the development and application of the Homes4Life certification scheme, special attention to be paid to the following: (1) making the scheme flexible enough to assess the wide variety of innovative home environments that are part of very different innovation pathways; (2) dealing with potential misalignments between certain radical innovations and the application of a certification scheme; (3) formulating a communication strategy to articulate to added value of the certification scheme to innovators involved in experiments.


Homes4Life Working Taxonomy & KPI Framework for Smart age friendly living environments

Homes4Life Deliverable D2.4 & D3.1 – Working Taxonomy & KPI Framework for Smart age friendly living environments – is now available for download.

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Executive Summary

The Homes4Life project has posited for itself an ambitious set of targets. It aims to stimulate investment in age-friendly homes and improve opportunities for ageing well in place for the European population, by both defining and offering a holistic, positively framed long- term vision for inclusive housing in Europe, and offering practical tools in the form of certification. To unite those two workstreams into a coherent whole that will support stakeholders to understand one another, work together and find common ground for action, tools are needed to bridge the gap and facilitate the transition between long-term vision and current practice.

The Homes4Life has accordingly set itself the task to develop two instruments for this purpose: a working taxonomy, and a framework of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The working taxonomy of age-friendly homes (D2.4) presents a structured and detailed breakdown of what it means for a home to be age-friendly? Which functions does the home environment have to fulfil? Which elements in its location, setting, design, construction and components contribute to its fitness for purpose? Which stakeholder groups are in some way involved with the age-friendly home environment and what do they need and want from the home in order for it to be fit for their social, practical or economic purpose? The working taxonomy is a first attempt to answer these questions in a structured way. In doing so, it aims to fill an evident gap in current understanding of and discussions around age-friendly homes: the lack of basic shared descriptive language for academic and practical discourse. This lack of a common reference framework hinders efforts to improve the age-friendliness of the European stock of homes: without a usable framework it is very hard to identify which problems to tackle, which intervention strategies are likely to work, and/or how to incentivize improvements appropriately.

The development of the working taxonomy has been shaped by three main objectives. In terms of agenda-setting, work on the taxonomy has sought to redefine the terms “smart” and “integrated” from the narrow ICT-sense in which they are currently applied to the home environment. Work on the taxonomy has sought to demonstrate that “smart” can be more usefully understood in a teleological sense as the extent to which a home contributes to the personal and organisational aspirations of its occupants and other stakeholders and can adapt as these change over time. “Integrated”, likewise, should be construed more broadly as describing how well a home is embedded in its spatial and social context, and the extent to which it helps its occupants to maintain existing social networks and build new connections. Conceptually, the goal of the taxonomy is to address a number of specific current gaps in understanding of and approaches to age- friendly homes. Practically, and most importantly for a working instrument, the taxonomy sets itself the task to develop a reference framework that works to support and tie together the Homes4Life project objectives.

Taking its inspiration from academic research in salutogenesis, place making and gerontechnology, as well as from policy-based and monitoring approaches developed by the World Health Organisation (Age-friendly Cities, and Age-friendly Environments in Europe), UNECE and the European Commission (Active Ageing Index) and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (Monitoring and Assessment Framework for the EIP AHA), as well as promising work in recent EU-funded projects, the working taxonomy has been shaped as a matrix in which an itinerary of user and other stakeholder perspectives on one axis is matched with a detailed breakdown of the homeenvironment’s main functions on the other. These functions have been broken down into five main clusters: Physical functions of the home, functions concerning Outdoor Access, Personal functions, Social functions, and Economic functions and aspects. After consideration of several other structuring principles, this perspectives and functions driven approach has been considered to fit best with the practical utility required of the taxonomy, which consisted in the following aspects:

  • Create a common language, focusing on the universalities rather than the context- specific particularities of age-friendly homes
  • Clarify who are the stakeholders involved in age-friendly homes and help identify their needs and concerns.
  • Help stakeholders to understand and appreciate each other’s viewpoints and find common ground
  • Give a full view of the functions the home environment fulfils for its various stakeholders, taking especial care to move beyond the relatively narrow domain
  • Support the adoption of a positive, value-based approach to ageing in place
  • Present a comprehensive overview, yet be flexible enough to allow description, analysis and assessment in specific contexts and projects.The report outlines the results of the development process of the working taxonomy. It also showcases a first test that has been done to get an idea of the actual utility of the working taxonomy as a canvas to map meanings, impacts and priorities: the definition of a set of what have been called Needs or Preferences (NoPs), which have been defined using the taxonomy descriptive framework. A total of 150 NoPs have been identified in this initial exercise. Both the working taxonomy and the outcomes of this initial verification exercise are presented in the report.

    The report also details the development process and contents of the KPI-framework (D3.1). The decision to combine the two into a single report has been a conscious one. The development of working taxonomy and KPI-framework has constituted one integrated workstream. More importantly, the KPI-framework uses the taxonomy as its structuring principle and could not be easily understood without it. Finally, working taxonomy and KPI- framework are two connected practical tools to support the Homes4Life objectives, so it makes sense to create a single locus where those interested can find information.

    What does a home actually have to do in order to be age-friendly? That is the central question that the Homes4Life KPI-framework sets out to answer. The KPI-framework represents the follow-on step in the transition from vision-based, high-level concepts to a comprehensive, “universal” (that is, not implementation context dependent) set of indicators that can form the basis for more specific requirement-setting and verification in the certification pilots in Work Package 4.

While called KPIs, the indicators developed for Homes4Life are better understood as Functional Performance Indicators (FPIs). They describe what a home, its components, its physical characteristics, its lay-out and design, its components, its location and settings, its connections to the outside world, and/or its financial and governance aspects need to be able to do in order to fulfill a Function (as defined in the Homes4Life taxonomy framework) that contributes to the creation or maintenance of an age-friendly environment that is enabling, fit for purpose, flexible and resilient. The KPIs or FPIs in Homes4Life are defined in terms of outcomes achieved and functionality provided for users and other stakeholders. This has been done in accordance with the objective of providing a framework that is relatively context-independent, with it or sections of it being tailored to more specific applications through requirement and verification process and value setting in specific certification application.

In developing the KPI-framework, most effort and ingenuity has been spent on developing indicators for the Functional clusters where current certification schemes, labels, standards and guidelines do not provide adequate answers. For these clusters, the Personal, Social and Economic clusters, an analysis of both academic and policy and advocacy literature has been conducted to identify and collect appropriate KPIs for inclusion. For the Physical and Outdoor Access cluster, full use has been made of the work done earlier in the Homes4Life project on the analysis of existing certification schemes (task 3.2). The material from this analysis has been integrated and condensed with the resulting shorter set of KPIs redefined in terms with the format and purposes of the Homes4Life KPI-framework. In total, 273 KPIs have been described, in a uniform format.

Neither the working taxonomy nor the KPI-framework are to be considered as the final word on the subject. Both represent pragmatic approaches designed to provide a sufficient base for the purposes and continuation of the Homes4Life project. As the project enters its second year, both deliverables will be tested against the demands of certification pilots and subjected to the scrutiny and input of the project’s Community of Interest as well as wider groups of stakeholders. The feedback from practice and from a wide community of interested persons and organizations will serve to further refine, extend and update both instruments, appropriate to their intended status as flexible working tools.