Don Norman, who coined user-centered design and wrote the seminal ‘The Design of Everyday things’, noted recently that “Despite our increasing numbers [of older people] the world seems to be designed against the elderly.” His observation at age 83 did not shock sociologists, gerontologists, or computer scientists working in the field of ageing and technology. Like Norman, we have long emphasized the importance of technology design and implementation that respects the heterogenous needs, desires, and aspirations of older people. As evidence mounts on the relationship between digital and social exclusion [1-4], good design is not only a matter of convenience but also of inclusion. Yet, this knowledge is often constrained by disciplinary silos. Due to the complexity of effective design, evaluation, and uptake of digital technologies for/with older people, an interdisciplinary approach is needed to integrate multi-dimensional knowledge and boost our capacity to inform technology design, policy, and public opinion.
This interdisciplinary gap guided our edited collection on the topic, entitled Ageing & Digital Technology: Designing & Evaluating Emerging Technologies for Older Adults (2019, Springer). This book brings together, for the first time, contributions from social and computer scientists involved in the design and study of digital technologies for/with older people. Together, we discuss challenges and opportunities. The collection is divided in three parts: the first provides theoretical and conceptual frameworks, the second offers methodological and ethical considerations, and the third presents case studies from different countries. Central to all chapters is a critique of the recurrent dualistic and simplistic approach to technology impact – i.e., positive versus negative – and an acknowledgement that research and the technology we design can both include and exclude, contingent on its context.
Our aim was to provide a set of enduring reflections, examples, and practices to help ensure that emerging technologies can work for diverse groups of older people rather than excluding them. You can learn more about the book here.
1. Choudrie, J., Kurnia, S., & Tsatsou, P. (Eds.). (2017). Social Inclusion and Usability of ICT-enabled Services. Routledge.
2. Park, S. (2017). The State of Digital Inequalities: Interplay Between Social and Digital Exclusion. In Digital Capital (pp. 35-62). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
3. Neves, B. B., Fonseca, J. R., Amaro, F., & Pasqualotti, A. (2018). Social capital and Internet use in an age-comparative perspective with a focus on later life. PloS one, 13(2), e0192119.
4. Seifert, A., Hofer, M., & Rössel, J. (2018). Older adults’ perceived sense of social exclusion from the digital world. Educational Gerontology, 44(12), 775-785.