How could older adults better age in place?

About CareHub

Research shows that nowadays more and more older adults want to age in their own homes independently. While smart home with VUI (Voice User Interface) technology is becoming a promising tool to help users control home appliances, the mainstream VUIs are posing great usability challenges to users who are older adults.

CareHub is a smart screen device with multimedia & visual-enhanced VUI to help older adults better control home appliances and age in place. With this project, I aim to improve the learnability and usability of VUI to better accommodate the needs of older adults, and find opportunity space to integrate VUI technology into older adults’ daily lives to help them age in their own homes independently.


1. Indentify the main challenges for older adults to age in place independently;
2. Improve the learnability of smart home VUI to help older adults better control home appliances.


Individual HCI research project


9 months, 2020

My Role

User research, UX design, visual design, user-testing


IoT, Smart Home, Aging in Place, VUI, CUI (Conversational User Interface)

Final Deliverables

Product Highlights

Design Process

Early Research

—Literature Review
—User Persona
—User Interview
—Contextual Inquiry

Focused Study

—Market Analysis
—Usability Testing

Early Iteration

—Conversational Flow Design

Prototype &  Feedback

—UX Design
—Visual Design
—User Testing

01 Early Research

01 The Social Trends of Aging in Place

As more and more older adults would want to age in their own homes independently nowadays, supporting older adults to age in place is becoming a critical social issue.

The core of aging in place is the concept of “home”. In order to better support the aging populations to comfortably age in place, it is especially important to understand how older adults would spend time at home and interact with their home environments. Inspired by the social trends of aging in place, I decided to investigate the spcific challenges faced by older adults who were aging in place, and explore the opportunity space of integrating “smart home” technology into the daily lives of older adults.

02 Target Users and User Needs

After literature reviews, I conducted six in-depth contextual inquiry studies with six older adults to observe the ways in which they interact with their home environments and home appliances. I was then able to identify five user needs of aging in place with different levels of priorities:

Design brief: a smart home assistant that supports older adults to better age in place.

02 Focused Study

After deciding my design direction: a smart home device with visual-enhanced voice assistant technology, I conducted usability test with six older adults to investigate the challenges that older adults were facing while using the current mainstream VUI technology. I was able to identify key usability issues and potential improvements at different VUI stages, as shown below:

03 Design Generative

Given the insights from the previous usability studies, I first designed the conversation flow of voice assistant of my device, as shown below. Through literature review, I was able to identified all possible error types during the conversations with voice assistant, and provide possible solutions for each of them.

With the conversation flow, I then designed the information architecture of my device according to the five levels of users needs, and propose visual feedback for each of the VUI stages to improve learnability and usability.

04 Evaluation Study

With my prototypes, I conducted evaluation studies with six older adults using the 10-item System Usability Scale (SUS). The results showed that my prototype was highly received by the participants and successfully improved usability of VUI.