University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and the adoption of health related technologies for older adults


Thielke S, Harniss M, Thompson H, Patel S, Demiris G, Johnson K



Publication Info:

Ageing International, 37(4):470-488


Technologies are being developed and promoted with the aim of improving the health and quality of life of older adults, but often without analyzing or planning around the human needs of users. Abraham Maslow's model of the hierarchy of needs proposes that people seek to satisfy progressively higher human needs, starting with physical needs like food and shelter, and advancing through safety and security, belonging and love, esteem, and self-actualization. Each of these levels of need has relevance for aging-related technologies. Lack of attention to user needs may be one factor that explains the limited adoption of many aging-related technologies. It is important to consider the users' current levels of need, the different needs of patients and caregivers, the degrees of behavioral change expected at different levels of need, and the unintended consequences of technologies. Insights from Maslow's model can help developers, researchers, providers, and consumers in the process of producing, evaluating, recommending, and purchasing technologies for older adults. One particular challenge is that assistive technologies may undermine esteem needs by limiting independence. Scales to measure levels of need can help characterize which needs are most relevant for different individuals, and can be used to ensure that technologies address users' needs.

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