OSU Lab for Research and Instruction in Environmental Factors for an Aging Population

Story provided by Emily Roberts, Ph.D., Assistant Professor,  OSU Department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising

Students and faculty at Oklahoma State University have an innovative new lab for teaching and research. The Human Environmental Factors Lab (HEFL) has been funded through the National Institute of Health (NIH) and is designed to accelerate the development, validation, and adoption of advances in environments and technology for aging. The lab is a setting for testing in engineering, anthropometrics, design, and state-of-the-art human factors research, as well as supporting teaching and classes which can prepare a new generation of professionals for the coming age wave and is located in the newly formed College of Education and Human Sciences.  

Within the HEFL space, the existing floors are concrete and the 10’ ceiling has an open grid, lending itself well to the flexibility of changing configurations with the use of the installed prefabricated modular wall system. This wall system maximizes form and function to allow for multiple “mock-up” room settings (i.e. residential kitchen, bedroom, etc.) which can easily be set up and reconfigured by the researchers. The HEFL lab currently is set up to represent a one-bedroom apartment.  There is a kitchen/dining area with a sink, cabinets, stove/oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave. The living room has a couch, chair, table, tv stand, and tv monitor. The bedroom has a fully electric hospital bed, two chests of drawers, a desk, mirror, and a chair. The bathroom has a sink, toilet, and cabinets. Through the generosity of community partners, several items have been donated for lab use including the fully electric hospital bed from Stillwater Medical Center and the living room furniture from Stillwater Furniture Showcase. 

The development of HEFL has promoted a broad range of current and future interdisciplinary education and research including the development of adaptable cabinet systems, caregiver training sessions, and testing of design options for aging and disability. Future research opportunities for the HEFL space include integration of smart home and assistive technologies and other forms of Gerontechnology, and the devices or systems such as artificial intelligence and robotics which will enable older adults and their caregivers greater opportunities for increased autonomy in the home/care environment. For more information or to schedule a tour of the HEFL please contact Dr. Emily Roberts at 405-744-3818. 

About Aging Advocates

Aging Advocates, a group of area businesses and agencies in the Payne County area meet monthly to advocate for older adults. From their experiences, they innovate ideas and raise awareness of older adult issues. It is important to look at the developing needs of the aging population and support, educate, and identify services valuable to a life fully lived.