Over the course of the past couple of weeks, collaboration has continued with a number of different senior citizens. In each of the sessions students sit down with at least one senior (sometimes in a small group) and guide them through different aspects of technology. Based on the research so far, four “critical areas” have been established and will serve as the foundation for the technology program that is being developed. These findings are based upon personal surveys and interactions, previous research, and social needs. The four critical areas are: Mobile Banking, Tele-Health Services, Digital Communication, and Basic Computer Literacy. “Mobile Banking” includes viewing online bank accounts, paying bills online, and using ATMs. “Tele-Health Services” encompasses online patient registration portals, at-home medical tests, and virtual doctor visits. “Digital Communication” is a combination of traditional social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) and other online communication tools (Skype, email). Finally, “Basic Computer Literacy” is providing the seniors with the basic skills to interact with their computers on a daily basis. This includes teaching them how to interact with computer hardware, basic keyboard tricks, and how to work their operating system. The research thus far has suggested that if older adults are provided with the skills listed above, then they will be better equipped to interact with current and future technologies. In establishing a better understanding of these topics, older adults will be able to properly interact with today’s society, other adults, and younger generations, thus lessening their feelings of social isolation. It is interesting to note that three of the four critical areas that have been identified were ones that were hypothesized at the beginning of the project. In speaking with the older adults and their families, and aids, these were areas that they hoped to learn more about. Additionally, these are areas that many younger individuals utilize on a daily basis.
The research has raised a number of questions, and provided subsequent challenges in developing a proper technology program at Carter Burden. First and foremost, how can the success of the technology program be accurately measured in a meaningful way? It is hard to quantify the success rate because so much of the work that is being done is subjective to the individual. The understanding of the findings is limited because a proper survey (or tool) that is able to adequately measure the success rate has not yet been established. Furthermore, another challenge/question that has come up is how to teach and interact with older adults with physical/mental handicaps. Many of the challenges that are associated with teaching older adults such as memory loss, and decreased mobility, are magnified with those with a mental/physical disability (dementia, etc.). Research is still being done in understanding how the program will overcome these challenges in helping the adults learn.
One of the main successes and lessons of the research is that the needs and abilities of this community are now better understood, which provides a solid foundation as the research continues. There is an entire community of individuals who were not privy to growing up with today’s technology, but who nonetheless, are wanting to better understand and connect with these devices. Not only are older adults able to learn about technology with the proper teacher and resources, but they are eager to jump into the digital age! It has been very interesting to see how these adults approach new technology and ideas with a sense of ambition and determination. There are so many aspects of the digital age that many take for granted, but it has been wonderful to see these adults grow as they learn more about the technology that surrounds them.
This research and project have greatly impacted me and my future studies in this field. I now have a better understanding of an underrepresented community within our society. It has been a pleasure to meet and interact with so many diverse and welcoming individuals. Furthermore, I have firsthand knowledge of what it takes to teach older adults, and how although it can be a timely process, it is equally if not, more fulfilling and enjoyable.