Research of tablet use by elderly people

There are about 2,6 million elderly (over 65) living in The Netherlands. Many of them experience that there are less people around when they age to have a chat with. The increasing pressure on the spare time of their children, family and friends, or even people emigrating, make it difficult for elderly to keep in touch with their loved ones. A tablet can be an interesting gadget to enrich their daily life and the fill in the need for social contact. Waag asked two students of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences to research what the possibilities and limitations are of the use of tablets in the life of elderly people.

The two researchers for this project, Erwin Goris (Electrical Engineering) and Suzanne Kessels (Ergotherapie), are both following the minor ‘care technology’. Erwin and Suzanne wrote a report for Waag within our project Health-Lab. In short, the results were aimed at two goals: firstly, how do elderly react on the iPad and can they work with the device and secondly, does the tablet really contribute to the feeling of social connectedness. Three respondents at the care institute Flesseman (Amsta) in Amsterdam in the age of 80+ participated.

The research showed that elderly have diffulties with things like the keyboard functions, mostly the keys with multiple functions. But after the participants learned how to use the tablet, they were lacking the digital age vocabulary that comes with it. "Downloaded, what is that?", one of the participants asked. But also 'sending an app' or 'checking e-mail' were still completely unfamiliar to them. The participants did have social contact with their family and especially found the option to see their relatives (in Skype) very valuable.

We offered the participants to buy their iPads for a resonable price and two of them very much wanted to keep their device, although they would not have bought it for the original price. One of them even had wifi installed in his room, as this is not yet widely available at the care center. Another user experience was that the standard 'smart cover' was not really helpful in this case, as both people could not find the right position for it on their table. Luckily for them, iPad covers come in all kinds and sizes.



Marise Schot