Today I’d like to touch upon a small addition to a previous post by one of my colleagues, which you can read here. To be more precise, I’d like to add two topics of discussion one of which I’ll briefly explain now while the other will (hopefully) follow later on this week.
As a child of the 90’s, I’ve pretty much grown up with computers since the age of 10. While this won’t necessarily grant me a better capabilities while using these machines (see reference 1 and 2), it offers a more wholesome view of their inner workings. I’ve previously discussed the aspect of ‘learning’ activities performed by elderly compared to their younger counterparts, but today I’d like to focus on, as the title of this post suggested, experimentation.
I’d like to tell another story involving my grandmother to keep things light, but rest assured this is not an isolated case (3). My grandmother was actively learning how to use a computer a few years back. She took courses and practised at least twice a week. By now, she’s able to type letters at the same speed she would write them down. Unfortunately, as soon as a single thing goes wrong, or even if there’s a function in Microsoft Word she wants to use, she needs assistance. This is applicable to my parents as well, though not this extensively. As soon as a problem arises, the older user requires aid. When I was ten years old I encountered similar problems, but didn’t have the luxury of having someone to help me out. You just tried and oftentimes you failed miserably (but then again, now you know how to format a computer…). This lack of inhibition is something that trademarks and defines children, a quality that seems to diminish as you age. This rigidity is something that a lot of studies acknowledge (4) and is an inherent part of growing up. This however illustrates the use of ubiquitous technology, especially for the elderly. People of a respectable age crave the stability this technology provides while also profiting from its ease of use. Furthermore, most elderly believe that learning to use a new application is a daunting effort. Motivation might help them to overcome this barrier, yet their adaptability can still be described as limited compared to younger citizens. Out of fear of ‘breaking things’ they require more assistance (and maybe even a wholly different approach) than younger enthusiasts. However if these stability issues are rectified, general performance increases (1).
(1) V. Ogozalek, J. Van Praag, Comparison of elderly and younger users on keyboard and voice input computer-based composition tasks, Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (1986), p. 205-211
(2) B. Laursen, B. R. Jensen, A. Ratkevicius, Performance and muscle activity during computer mouse tasks in young and elderly adults, European Journal of Applied Physiology (2000), Volume 84, Number 4, p. 329-336
(3) R. E. Canestrari, Paced and Self-paced Learning in Young and Elderly Adults, Journal of Gerontology (1963), Volume 18 (2), p. 165-168