Teaching Older Adults to Use Technology with the

Teaching Older Adults to Use
Technology with the Systems
Dr. Chris Mayhorn
North Carolina State University
Thanks to my co-authors (Aideen J. Stronge,
Anne Collins McLaughlin, and Wendy A. Rogers)
from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
This research was supported in part by a grant
from the National Institutes of Health (National
Institute on Aging) Grant P01 AG17211 under
the auspices of the Center for Research and
Education on Aging and Technology
Enhancement (CREATE).
The Need for Computer
Older adults are aware of the benefits
associated with computer use (Morrell,
Mayhorn, & Bennett, 2000).
They are actively seeking computer
training programs (Czaja, 1997; Rossman,
Training programs designed for older
adults must meet their specialized needs.
The Systems Approach to
VariablesPerson Analysis
Capabilities &
Task Analysis
Selection and Design
of Training Program(s)
Training Principles
Previous Training Programs
Previous Research
Development of Criteria
Transfer and Retention
Training Program
Age, Competence,
Motivation, Self Ef ficacy, Sex
Elaborating with User Input from
Structured Interviews
Older adults (mean age = 71.6) were recruited
from a community senior center.
They had recently completed an introductory
course in basic computer skills that met three
hours each week for six weeks.
Structured interviews were conducted to gain an
understanding of course-specific issues, the
problems experienced while interacting with
computers, and the solutions (strategies)
developed to solve these problems.
Needs Assessment
Older adults are demanding to learn about technology
(Adler, 2002) yet they want training before they will
use new technology (Rogers, Cabrera, Walker,
Gilbert, & Fisk, 1996).
The goals of the older adult student must be
understood and assimilated into the structure of a
training program by addressing what older adults
want to learn about computers and why. (Baron, DAmico, Sissons, & Peters, 1996).
Goals of Students
Enhancing social interaction: “a lot of the
grandparents, they are e-mailing their grandchildren”
Searching for information: “you can hardly do
anything with the stock market without a computer”
Remaining active: “everyone is into computers, if
you are not into computers then you are just kind of
left out”
Promoting life satisfaction: “I am just doing it for
Task Analysis
Method useful in identifying the procedures and
knowledge required to complete a given task.
A task analysis may highlight particular problem
areas for students by identifying problematic
steps in the procedures where errors occur.
Training programs should be able to instruct
users on how to avoid errors and what to do if
they happen.
Person Analysis
Difficulties in acquiring computer skills
may be associated with a number of
factors such as computer attitudes,
perceptual ability, and motor function.
Previous computer experience, computer
anxiety, and perceived usefulness may
interact to influence the development of
older adults’ attitudes towards computers.
Attitudes, Perception, and
Motor Function
Training must reduce initial computer anxiety:
Participants were initially worried that they
“might break it [the computer].”
Effects of visual problems can be reduced:
Participants changed the settings on the
computer by “making the type size larger” and
“angled the screen” to reduce glare.
Mouse control problems can be accomodated:
strategies included altering the speed of the
mouse clicks or practicing by playing solitaire.
Selection and Design of
Training Program
Development of the optimal design for a
computer training program should be
informed by:
the previous stages of the systems approach
prior research that investigated how best to
train older adults to use computers.
Evaluation of Training
Performance criteria include:
Usability (performance and satisfaction measures
that generally reflect the effectiveness of the
training experience)
Transfer (skills learned in the classroom can be
used in other environments such as the home)
 Retention (benefits of training should be
maintained over time following the completion of
Student Recommendations
to Improve Course
 Logistics: small class size with “no more than 10 people”
who have the same level of computer experience
 Course Content:
Focused on goals of student: not focused on the
“agenda [of the instructor] who was trying to cover
Slow-paced: “the material was [presented] really fast
with too much stuff [being covered] for the length of
Accompanied by supplemental reference material:
“instructions should be written down so you can take
it home and work on it on your own”
One untapped resource for course developers is the
older student.
Older adults readily identified very specific goals.
The inclusion of these course objectives is essential
for reducing anxiety, maintaining students’
motivation to learn, and promoting positive attitudes.
Instructors of computer training programs can apply
the systems approach to tailor their classes to meet
the needs of older adults.