Studying digital technology for/with frail older adults

11 mars 2019



Collège Jacques Leclercq - B290

Séminaire Cirfase
Le 11/03/2019 de 14h00 à 16h00, Local Lecl B290
Studying digital technology for/with frail older adults: lessons learned
Barbara Barbosa Neves, The University of Melbourne, Australia

This presentation draws on sociotechnical studies of an accessible communication app, designed with and for frail older adults (aged 65+) living in care homes in Canada. Theapp was developed  by a team of Sociologists and Computer Scientists to address social connectedness needs in later life. Social connectedness relates to meaningful social interaction/communication with others. By addressing social connectedness, the aim was to help tackle issues of loneliness and social isolation in later life.

Lonely and socially isolated older adults are more often excluded from society and experience, in addition to immense suffering and loss of personhood, illnesses that require long-term hospitalization and complex care. For example, loneliness in later life increases the risk of dementia by 40%, regardless of gender, education, and genetic risk (Sutin et al., 2018). Since research suggests that technology-based interventions have a huge potential to tackle these issues, we co-created a communication app that considered needs and aspirations of older adults.

The app allowed participants to send multimedia messages to family and friends, who could then reply using their own email account and devices. To test adoption of the app and its feasibility to enhance social connectedness amongst frail institutionalized older adults, we deployed the technology with a group of culturally-diverse older adults in three care homes: a multi-care home for 8 weeks, a long-term care facility for 8 weeks, and a retirement home for 12 weeks. The study was based on a mixed methods design that combined social and computer science techniques, such as interviews, field observations, psychometric scales, log analysis, and usability and accessibility tests.

Based on the findings and challenges encountered, I discuss the main lessons learned – including conceptual, analytical, methodological, and ethical issues – and how these have
been framing my current research projects in Australia on robotic companions for older people and Virtual Reality for people living with dementia.

Bio: Dr Barbara Barbosa Neves is a sociologist of technology, currently at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Previously, she was an Associate Director and Researcher at the ‘Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab’ (Dept. of Computer Science) at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her research focuses on emerging technologies, ageing, family, social inequalities, and mixed methods. This work has been published in top-tier journals/outlets in Sociology and Computer Science, and honoured in Japan, US, and Canada. She is also an elected board member of the Committee of Family Research (RC06), within the International
Sociological Association (ISA). Her latest books include co-edited collections on “Ageing and Digital Technology” (Springer, 2019) that brings together, for the first time, Sociologists and Computer Scientists designing and evaluating emerging technologies for older people; and on “Connecting Families? Information & Communication Technologies, Generations, and the Life Course” (Policy Press, 2018), which presents ground-breaking sociological research, from five continents, on the relationship between family life and technology, within a generational and life course perspective.

W: Twitter: @barbaraneves