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Is technology making our lives easier or more complicated? Mismatches between technologies and older adults’ needs

The technological advancement that is taking place in our society has the potential to improve the quality of life and support independent living. However, research has shown that new technologies can be a source of frustration for older adults. Lack of familiarity with and understanding of technology can make older adults unsure of their ability to use it and become a barrier to the adoption of new devices.

- Have you ever felt discouraged to use a device because you struggled understanding how it worked?

- How can we increase motivation to pursue using the technology?

 One of the issues is that technologies commonly used by older adults are often developed without consulting them during the design process and without taking their perspectives into account.

- If you could develop technology to improve your life in any way, what would you develop? What would it look like?

- Can you think of any other barriers to technology adoption and use?

Relevant reference: Wang, S., Bolling, K., Mao, W., Reichstadt, J., Jeste, D., Kim, H. C., & Nebeker, C. (2019). Technology to Support Aging in Place: Older Adults' Perspectives. Healthcare7(2), 60. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare7020060

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Chiara Scarampi 11 months ago

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Catalina Romila 11 months ago

@Chiara, thanks for sharing this. Just like you, I find this as a common 'frustration' as you call it. I see this happening within my close family where if for instance a new piece of technology emerged like Amazon Alexa for instance, they would consider using it but are put off by the idea of needing to learn how to set it up or use it. In other words, they'd be fine using it as long as they'd be thought by me or someone else directly.

And I think this is one hurdle that particularly elderly face. They'd be happy to adopt these technologies if someone was to show them how, but without having someone to help them they just won't pursue. And it seems to me that this is the biggest challenge in adopting technology for the elderly.

One solution I could think of lies with the providers where they could run workshops or demos for these groups, somewhat similar to how VR gaming stations were set up in many shops around the country (like curries) giving young people a taste of it. Something like that I think could work.

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Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

This is an important topic. Knowing my grandparents, I know it would help them if the technology could be gradually studied. For example, let's take FitBit watch. There's many functions, and it can be scary and overwhelming to some people. Let's say they would get nice guide with steps, and every step is explained not just with text, but photo/picture. They would prefer to have a simple guide (lesson 1) about how to start the watch. This guide could explain how to turn the watch on, how to charge it, how to put it on arm, and how to turn on its screen. That's all. When they get used to the watch, and feel confident/ready enough to learn, let's say, how to check on the watch how many minutes they were active or how much they slept, they can read another page or two. When they become proficient in it, they may be tempted to use an app. Alas, my grandparents have the simplest phones because they are scared by complexity of new phones, so they won't use an app. I'd say having a device which can substitute phone can be good enough for them. This device could fully substitute an app which requires a phone. Of course, my opinion is based on knowing my grandparents, and speaking with old people when I worked as a carer, and I don't have any statistics based on opinions of large number of people :)

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Nattawan Utoomprurkporn 11 months ago

Even I struggle sometime to adopt new technologies. Most older adults want to continue their exiting ways of life so all these disruptive technologies are a threat to them.
I believe a way to help them adopt to new technologies may be through blended teaching lessons. Older adult IT champions can help to deliver a face-to-face workshop of step-by-step interactive online sessiosn to teach their peers the new skills.

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Chiara Scarampi 11 months ago

Thanks all for the comments, I totally agree with you. I know that this might be hard to implement, but what about trying to make different technologies more similar?I have the feeling that often older adults perceive new devices as something completely different from the technologies they have experiences before, requiring them to memorise a complete new sequence of instructions each time. Perhaps, showing them that different technologies can be operated by performing a similar series of steps could make them feel more confident in the use of technology.

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Georgie Cade 9 months ago

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