Older Adults’ Use of and Attitudes toward Activity Monitoring Technologies

Self-management of health is becoming increasingly important in today’s healthcare climate.  Activity monitoring technologies have the potential to support health self-management by tracking, storing, compiling, and providing feedback about an individual’s engagement in movement activities. Older adults represent a fast growing segment of the population who may benefit from such technologies.

To understand how to facilitate technology acceptance and adoption, more information is needed about older adults’ attitudes and usage of such technologies. Eight older adult participants (Mage = 65.0 years;SD = 3.2; range = 61-69) used one of four activity monitoring technologies in their own homes for two weeks. Attitudes and usability issues were assessed and evaluated within a technology acceptance framework. Participants’ initial attitudes were positive, but after using the technology for two weeks, attitudes were mixed. Three participants indicated they would continue using the technology, whereas five said they would abandon the technology. These data offer insight into older adults’ use of and attitudes toward activity monitoring technologies and provide improvement opportunities for designers. The results suggest that efforts should focus on conveying the usefulness and personal benefits of activity monitoring technologies specific to older adults.

Fausset, C. B., Mitzner, T. L., Price, C. E., Jones, B. D., W. B. Fain, & Rogers, W. A. (accepted 2013).  Older adults’ use of and attitudes toward activity monitoring technologies.  Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 57th Annual Meeting.

Older Adults’ Perceptions and Use of Technology: A Novel Approach

This study investigated older adults’ perceptions of technology in their everyday lives by using the stages of change model, a behavioral change model, as a guiding framework. Participants answered daily workbook questions about their experiences with technology and also recorded daily interactions and difficulties with technology for a 28-day period. Overall, participants were positive about technology but expressed concerns such as identity theft and loss of human contact. Participants reported using a wide range of technology in their everyday lives and cited efficiency, making life easier, and communication as reasons why they use technology. A recurring theme throughout the study was that their children played a major role in influencing aspects of technology adoption and use. Participants also reported not using technology if the need or value was not apparent. Older adults do adopt and use technologies, but only if the value and personal relevance is clear.

Fausset, C. B., Harley, L., Farmer, S., Fain, B. (2013).  Older adults’ perceptions and use of technology: A novel approach.  Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction.

Examining Social Media Use Among Older Adults

Social media is a powerful tool that can connect family and friends across long distances and link people with similar interests. Social media has been widely adopted by younger adults, but older adults have been less likely to use such applications.

A survey of 142 older adults (Mage=72 years, SD=11; range: 52-92) living in the metropolitan Atlanta area was conducted to understand the characteristics of older adults who do and do not use Facebook, a popular and widespread social media application. The present study examined the relationship between Facebook use and loneliness, social satisfaction, and confidence with technology. Demographic relationships were also examined, such as gender and age. Fifty-nine participants (42%) identified themselves as current Facebook users; 83 participants (58%) were not Facebook users. Non-Facebook users were significantly older (Mage= 75.3 years) than Facebook users (Mage= 66.5 years).

Counter to expectations, there was not a significant difference in loneliness between Facebook users and non-users for this sample. However, Facebook users did score higher on assessments of social satisfaction and confidence with technology than did non-users. These preliminary results suggest that many older adults do use Facebook and they primarily use it to stay connected with family. As adults enter into older adulthood, maintaining social connectedness may become more difficult due to mobility limitations, chronic diseases, and other age-related issues, thus decreasing physical connectedness with friends, family, and community. For these reasons, social media may begin to play a more active role in keeping this population socially connected. Therefore, understanding the factors that influence social media use in older adults is becoming more critical.

Bell, C., Fausset, C., Farmer, S., Nguyen, J., Harley, L., Fain, W. B. (2013).  Examining social media use among older adults.  Proceedings of the 24th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media (pp. 158-163).

Balancing Abilities and Product Demands in Home Health

With increasing medical costs, an aging population, and the desire of older adults to age in place, the demand for in-home healthcare technologies is growing by leaps and bounds. This is due in part to revolutionary technologies, such as the WiiFit, Kinect, smartphones, and other mobile devices. These and other breakthrough technologies make it affordable to use commercial over the shelf (COTS) products in new solutions to assess and monitor individuals in new environments.

Harley, L. (2013). Balancing abilities and product demands in home health. AAMI Blog.