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High-tech home makes aging graceful

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Technology (general)

LISBON, Portugal -- New technology is usually considered the preserve of the young, but a show home in Portugal is demonstrating how it can also help the elderly and disabled maintain their independence.

The house was designed by Tomas Taveira, one of Portugal's leading architects, and is on display at Lisbon's Museum of Communications.

It's design is intended to minimize problems caused by loss of sight or hearing or reduced mobility with gadgets such as telephones with extra-large easy-to-read numbers, voice-activated appliances, locks operated by fingerprint scanners and talking kitchen scales.

The house also features wheelchair-friendly ramps instead of stairs, an open-plan layout and a brightly colored interior.

"We want to prove to people that with new technologies it is easier to keep older people living at home, even if they are a bit dependent," exhibition organizer Goncalo Areia told AFP.

"The house is very cheerful. The fact that there is a wheelchair inside doesn't have to be a big drama."

As well as making life easier for its inhabitants, the house aims to provide them with a relaxing and stimulating environment.

A plasma screen built into the floor acts as a virtual garden, with electronic flowers bursting into bloom when visitors step on it, and the house comes with a robot pet dog.

The color of the dining room table and electronic artwork on the walls can also be changed to suit different moods or preferences.

The house features the latest technologies developed by major manufacturers as well as prototypes designed by local university students.

With a quarter of Lisbon's population already over 65, Areia said he hoped visitors to the house would provide feedback and suggestions based on their own experiences of aging.

"We want this to be a living laboratory," he said.

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