The project is exploring the technology attitudes, abilities and needs of older people and how these change over time.

At Digital World, this will be researched through a series of innovation workshops or ‘Sandpits’. These will allow older people’s groups to give feedback on existing and novel product concepts, and engage in a re-design process.

This project aims to look at the relationship between the dynamics of ageing and the dynamics of digital ICTs, in order to better understand how ICT can support or enrich quality of life and autonomy of older people as they age. It is known that digital ICTs have the potential to support older people to live independently, promote social inclusion or facilitate access to commercial or government services. However, as people age they often experience decline in their physical or cognitive abilities which can make it difficult to continue use of, or keep up with, digital tools and services. The resulting disengagement from the digital world can constitute a significant reduction in quality of life for some older people. Hence, the project will bring together a network of academic researchers from different disciplines in computer science and systems engineering, psychology, creative arts and social sciences with groups and panels of older people and their representative organisations. In order to tackle these issues of diversity and dynamics, the research will be participatory, with both qualitative and quantitative methods used. This will allow researchers to analyse trends and draw conclusions, while participating older people can have their individual perspectives recognised and respected.

The research does not intend to produce definitive answers or products, but to provide strong evidence, learning and approaches which will enhance the design of future policies, products and research into older people and ICTs. This will be developed through five main strands of work:

  1. Creating a network of groups and panels of older people with the capacity to engage in debates and analysis regarding the dynamics of ageing and ICTs
  2. Identifying and tracking characteristics of quality of life and autonomy, attitudes towards and uses of digital ICTs, and cognitive and physical capacity over a three year period
  3. Facilitating a series of ‘Sandpit’ discussions and participatory design exercises to provide older people with opportunities to explore aspects of current and emerging technologies in a playful and creative context
  4. Developing interface and customisation techniques which enable ICTs to adapt to different user needs and abilities
  5. Identify appropriate and effective learning, training and support mechanisms which promote and sustain digital engagement by older people

This project is in collaboration with the Universities of Loughborough, Dundee, Anglia Ruskin, Lincoln and Nottingham Trent. It is funded for 39 months from 1st January 2009 by the ESRC on behalf of a cross council initiative on the New Dynamics of Ageing.

More information on this project can be found at the SUS-IT website.

Contact: Christopher Lim