In the recent issue of the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers Andrew Reed, Joseph Mikels, and Kosali Simon examined whether older adults would prefer having fewer options when faced with a decision-making task. Confirming previous research, they found that across 6 domains (e.g., prescription health plans, hospitals), older adults preferred having fewer options rather than greater.
In their study, 102 older adults (ranging in age from 60-94) and 99 younger adults (ranging in age from 18-24) completed questionnaires asking about their desired number of choices in everyday decisions.
The authors surmised that older adults prefered fewer choices because of their awareness of their reduced decision-making competence (metacognitive recognition of their own limitations).
This kind of research certainly could have human factors and design implications. However, it might be too simplistic to just suggest that we give older adults fewer options. More research is necessary 🙂
A new Pew report examines the usage of cloud computing applications and services which is a topic I’ve been interested in recently. Something noteworthy was that, as we suspected, older adults don’t appreciate the benefits of cloud computing compared to other age groups:
Older adults’ are seemingly the ones who could benefit most from cloud computing. Keeping mail or other information in the cloud means that the user doesn’t have to configure their mail client, maintain their computer, etc.
I‘ve always thought text inputs from anything other than a keyboard were clunky. Cliff Kushler, the man who invented T9 (a word completion aid) has developed Swype, a new text entry method that capitalizes on eliminating the press and release component of the touchscreen. What was once a discrete target acquisition task becomes a continuous one.
In the CNET interview, Kushler points out his age (55) and his words-per-minute with Swype (50). Not bad.
If you’re interested in research on alternate text input devices, check out some of the following:
I was recently interviewed by our campus news service about receiving a Google Research Award to study information retrieval and aging. The research involves designing information retrieval interfaces around the capabilities and limitations of older adults (those age 60 and above). Here is a snippet from the press release:
Richard Pak, an assistant professor of psychology, has received a $50,000 gift from Google to study how older adults navigate the Web and what Web site design features make searches easier. The grant will fund an extension of his research on aging and technology.
“The findings are that when you take a Web site and organize it hierarchically — like how you might organize your documents on your computer with folders within folders — older adults are much slower and make more errors when they are searching for information compared to younger adults,” Pak said. “We think that this is the case because the situation does not allow older adults to use their greater knowledge toward the situation. However, when you take that same Web site and organize it around keywords or concepts instead of folders, older adults are able to bring their wealth of general knowledge to the situation and perform almost equivalently to younger adults in the task.”
That is, older adults seem to perform better using so-called “tag-based sites,” which are Web sites that organize their information around frequently used keywords. Pak said that while tag-based sites are still relatively new, several popular sites use tags. These include Amazon.com, Gmail.com, and the photo sharing Web site Flickr.com.
NEW YORK – If Sen. John McCain is really serious about becoming a Web-savvy citizen, perhaps Kathryn Robinson can help.
Robinson is now 106 — that’s 35 years older than McCain — and she began using the Internet at 98, at the Barclay Friends home in West Chester, Pa., where she lives. “I started to learn because I wanted to e-mail my family,” she says — in an e-mail message, naturally.
Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain’s admission that when it comes to the Internet, “I’m an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get.” And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides “go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself.”
“The Jive was created by Ben Arent, a college student, over a six-month period as part of his product design degree. The concept was designed to get elderly technophobes connected to their friends and family without feeling overwhelmed of learning how to use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. It would essentially be their own type of social networking.”
[link to Crave which includes a video demonstration]
First thing every morning, Lynn Pitet, of Cody, Wyo., checks her computer to see whether her mother, Helen Trost, has gotten out of bed, taken her medication and whether she is moving around inside her house hundreds of miles away in Minnesota.
This short article nicely talks about a well known pattern of age-related cognition (that with age comes “wisdom” or knowledge). The challenge in Human Factors is using this information in design.
“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”
I‘ve heard of text messages being used to remind older adults, but this is an interesting take on that…I guess it addresses the same underlying problem in both age groups: prospective memory failures.
WASHINGTON – 4gt yr meds? Getting kids to remember their medicine may be a text message away. Cincinnati doctors are experimenting with texting to tackle a big problem: Tweens and teens too often do a lousy job of controlling chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes or kidney disease.
It’s a problem long recognized in adults, particularly for illnesses that can simmer without obvious symptoms until it’s too late. But only now are doctors realizing how tricky a time adolescence is for skipping meds, too.