Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy


Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Jennifer Hutson

Second Advisor

Kristine Haertl

Third Advisor

James Tift


Occupational Therapy


The purpose of this study was to investigate an older adult’s perspective on the influences of smart technology on her communication with a family member. The participant in this single case study was included in a larger, phenomenological qualitative research study that investigated the impact of smart technology on senior care. She lived alone in a senior living facility apartment. The participant received smart home sensor technology, which tracked activity patterns and alerted a designated family member if deviations from typical activity patterns were detected. The participant also received Amazon Alexa® (2018) as part of the technology package. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with the participant both prior to installation and post-installation (at 2 and 8 months). The participant’s designated family member was interviewed at 2-months post-installation as well. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and coded using NVivo® software. A framework analysis was used to analyze the data, which included using charting matrix analysis and mapping to identify themes. Overall, the findings of the study showed that communication between the participant and her family member did not change with the use of smart technology. The themes that emerged from the data about why the smart technology did not influence communication included, “I’m just going on as usual”, “I keep in good contact”, and “I don’t know what the technology is really going to do for me”. The participant expressed her communication did not change due to a prior establishment of regular communication, her activities and health remaining the same, as well as feeling supported by senior living staff and that she didn’t need the smart technology. These findings were confirmed in the family member interview. The experience of not being changed by the technology might be explained with application of the Person-Environment-Occupation- Performance (PEOP) and Elderadopt models, in that the participant’s health, communication, and social supports were stable at the time smart technology was added to the participant’s environment. This case study fills a gap in the literature about the knowledge gained from examining an older adult’s experience over the span of a year, before and during use of smart technology. An older adult’s adoption and use of smart technology depends on the complex interaction between the person, their environment, and occupation factors. Occupational therapists have the training and expertise to consider such factors when making smart technology recommendations to older adults for aging in place.


Fourth advisor and member of thesis committee: Justin Wilwerding