Monitor on Psychology - May 2012 - (Page 29)
The PR2 robot hands medication to an older adult, in a study at Georgia Tech’s Aware Home.
There are also aspects of cognitive function that show age-related declines, for example working memory. Can you give some examples of technology that’s designed well for older adults? Some websites are well-designed, with high contrast and reduced jargon and minimal distracting information. Other websites are notoriously poorly designed, where there’s so much going on that it’s going to be difficult for older adults to use them. My colleagues Drs. Sara Czaja and Joseph Sharit at the University of Miami found that the majority of older adults could not find the information they needed on medicare.gov, for example. If you do design something to be easily used by older adults, it’s likely to be more easily used by the general population, too. But younger adults can overcome some design flaws, whereas for some older adults it may be so disruptive
that they end up not being successful [using the technology]. Do companies pay attention to these issues? It’s a mixture. But I think perhaps more companies are starting to as the demographics are changing. Part of our challenge as psychologists is to make sure that we’re translating our knowledge into guidelines and principles that industry can use, because they’re not going to read the psychology journals. We’ve written a book called “Designing for Older Adults” (2009) to provide principles, guidelines, best practices and so on directly targeted toward industry and government and other organizations. One example from a company that we’ve been partnering with called BigScreenLive — they designed a computer interface specifically for older adults. So, instead of pulling up the Internet and getting too much information, it gives five basic functions,
such as email, photos and games. We’re testing the efficacy of that system for older adults who live alone and didn’t have computers before. We’re comparing the relative benefits of having this computer system to a control group that gets the same information in paper form. We’re midway through data collection, but we have anecdotal information that the people in the computer group just love it. It is easy to use and they are enjoying connecting with family and friends over email. I recently got word that one of them — who never used a computer until our study — is now volunteering to help create an email distribution list and is using Groupons. n Video: Watch the PR2 personal robot interact with older adults at the Aware Home.
M AY 2 0 1 2 • M O N I T O R O N P S Y C H O L O G Y
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