Understanding the Needs of Older Adults

To most effectively harness the power of technology and translate it into practical solutions, it is crucial that the people who will be using the technology are consulted and fully involved from the early stages right through product testing and marketing. Researchers in this theme are centred on understanding the needs, preferences and abilities of older adults related to technology, and on developing tools to include them in all stages of technology development. Traditionally, end-users have been excluded from most of the technology development and testing process, often being brought in at the end to comment on the finished product, device or service. Outcomes of our research will have a significant influence over the technology and aging field.

Workpackage Leads
  • Arlene Astell, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
  • Megan O'Connell, University of Saskatchewan

Core Research Projects

Rural/Remote Indigenous Technology needs Exploration – 1.1 RRITE

A critical part of AGE-WELL’s mandate is to develop an in-depth understanding of the technology needs and preferences of older adults. This project is reaching out to those who live outside big cities and also to Indigenous people. The goal is to explore user needs for two very distinct populations, giving voice to those who aren’t usually part of studies. The project involves asking users’ opinions of their particular needs and how they think technology might assist in improving their lives. It will also address the challenges of connectivity in remote areas.

Project Leads
  • Debra Morgan, University of Saskatchewan
  • Megan O'Connell, University of Saskatchewan
  • Carrie Bourassa, University of Regina
  • James Carter, University of Saskatchewan
  • Kristen Jacklin, University of Minnesota
  • Wayne Warry, Laurentian University


Tools for User Needs Gathering to Support Technology Engagement – 1.2 TUNGSTEN

Older adults have often been left out of the loop in developing technology that is intended for their use. At best, they have been consulted only after all the key decisions are made. This project is developing tools to involve older adults in technology development, from the early stages of design and testing of products right through to marketing and advertising.

Project Leads
  • Arlene Astell, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
  • Deborah Fels, Ryerson University
  • Andrew Sixsmith, Simon Fraser University


Older Adults' Active Involvement in Aging and Technology Research and Development – 1.3 OA-INVOLVE

The aim of this project is to develop best practices to support the active involvement of older adults in AGE-WELL projects. The work focuses on understanding how to best incorporate the experience and insight of older adults in aging and technology research.

Project Leads
  • Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University
  • Judith Sixsmith, The University of Dundee
  • Kieran O'Doherty, University of Guelph
  • Pia Kontos, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto


Engaging People Living with Dementia in Product Design, Testing, and Commercialization - A Case Study towards Developing Practice Standards – 1.4-S2

Increasingly, people with dementia want to be involved in the development of products and services that impact them. However, few resources currently exist to support entrepreneurs looking to engage people with dementia on technology projects. This project explores how entrepreneurs can engage people with dementia meaningfully and respectfully in the design, testing, and commercialization of information communication technologies (ICTs) intended for their use. We are monitoring and documenting the engagement of people with dementia in design, testing, and commercialization of MemorySparx, a digital memory aid that is currently being developed by Emmetros. Data collected during this study will inform practical resources for entrepreneurs and people with dementia looking to collaborate on technology projects. Ideally, increased engagement of people with dementia will improve the usability and usefulness of products intended for them, enabling these individuals to live independently and with dignity.

Project Leads
  • Lisa Loiselle, University of Waterloo
  • Mark Oremus, University of Waterloo



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