Rumble with My Roomba: Trialling Smart Home Devices With Older People

Thomson S1, Eugene A2, Horan B3, Strengers Y4

1McLean Care

2Harvest Community Sector Consulting

3Deakin University

4Monash University


This ground-breaking project is believed to be a world first.  Funded through a $1.12m Commonwealth Home Support Programme Innovation Grant from the Department of Health, the project explored how off-the-shelf “plug and play” smart home devices can be used to support older people to improve wellness and independent living outcomes.  The project evaluated the benefits, opportunities and challenges of incorporating smart home devices into older peoples’ home and lives; including how user-friendly the various devices are for older people.

The project intentionally incorporated a broad suite of devices – ranging from smart lights to robotic vacuum cleaners.  Participants were able to select a combination of devices for installation into their homes that best suited their unique circumstances.

The trial was conducted over a six-month period in 2020 across three regional communities in NSW.  It was delivered through a unique industry-research partnership between specialist regional and rural aged care service provider – McLean Care, and teams from Deakin University’s CADET Virtual Reality Training and Simulation Research Lab and Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab.  The project produced both ethnographic insights, and technical quantitative data collected directly from the devices.

Conducted (by chance) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project provides a unique insight into how older people interacted with technology during this unprecedented global event.

The presentation will showcase project outcomes – including research results, user reviews of the trial devices, and most importantly, the voices of participants – shared through short films and photography captured during the project.


Sue Thomson is the Chief Executive Officer at McLean Care, an award- winning not for profit aged care provider. Her passion and commitment to the health and wellbeing of the ageing population in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas is a result of over 20 years’ experience and service in the health and aged care sectors, and has heavily influenced the success of McLean Care Ltd as a leading provider in the industry, including winning the recent AsiaPacific Eldercare Innovation of the Year (2019) and the ITAC Project of the Year (2019).

Sue offers specific skills in the areas of leadership and mentoring, governance, quality and risk management; and her interests include industry-wide aged care leadership development, and innovative, sustainable and viable RRR service delivery models. Sue uses her voice on various state and national committees and boards to ensure older people continue to receive quality service provision in RRR areas.

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