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
  • Lisa Loiselle, University of Waterloo

Core Research Projects

Indigenous Technology Needs Exploration – Saskatchewan – 1.1a ITNE-SK

We are examining, in partnership with the Community Research Advisory Committee at the File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council, the way in which technology is used in Indigenous communities in relation to pathways to care for Indigenous older adults who are affected by dementia, as well we are looking at their caregivers' experiences including caregiver stress. 

Project Leads
  • Carrie Bourassa, University of Regina
  • Jennifer Walker, Laurentian University


Aging Technologies for Indigenous Communities in Ontario – 1.1b ATICON

The ATICON team will explore use of technology in aging in Indigenous populations with the goal of increasing the accessibility and cultural safety of technologies developed through AGE-WELL.  In the first phase of our work, we found that communities value technology, see how adoption of culturally safe technology can augment their lives, access to healthcare, and their community engagement. Drawing on this wealth of community-based research findings with older Anishinaabe adults, and with the guidance of our community steering committee, we seek to support meaningful knowledge translation activities between Indigenous community partners and AGE-WELL investigators to promote development of culturally safe and specific aging technologies with Indigenous communities.

Project Leads
  • Kristen Jacklin, University of Minnesota


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.

Taking Part in AGE-WELL Research



OA-INVOLVE YouTube Channel

Project Leads
  • Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University
  • Judith Sixsmith, The University of Dundee
  • Ian Goldman, Independent
  • Janet Fowler, Independent
  • Jim Mann, Independent
  • Kieran O'Doherty, University of Guelph
  • Pia Kontos, Toronto Rehab Institute/University of Toronto
  • Trudie Helmke, Independent
  • Winnie Houston, Independent


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


Feasibility of mixed reality technologies for people with dementia – 1.5-CAT

People with dementia are keen to continue their everyday activities but require support to do so. It is established that people with dementia can benefit from current digital technologies such as smartphones and tablets, which have functions that we all rely on to help us manage our daily lives, such as calendars, schedulers and reminders as well as the social and communication functions. Newer devices, including Mixed Reality technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, offer additional functions that could support people with dementia, but these have not been fully investigated. This study will examine the feasibility of Mixed Reality Technologies for use by people with dementia. This will include several different technologies that link the physical and virtual worlds in different ways, i.e. through headsets, screens and physical objects. We will invite 30 people with dementia to play a selection of games on different devices and observe them while they play. We will video-record their interactions and end the session with an interview about their experience interacting with the devices and games. The data will help us to identify which types of interaction are easiest, most comfortable and enjoyable for people with dementia. It will also tell us what does not work and what people do not like. This information will enable us to develop a framework for using Mixed Reality technologies to provide prompts and support to people with dementia in their everyday activities.

Project Leads
  • Arlene Astell, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences


Evaluating the usability of interactive mobile technology for driver rehabilitation after stroke – 1.6-CAT

Resumption of driving is critical to the health and quality of life of the estimated 62,000 Canadians affected by stroke each year. As tablets are increasingly being adopted by older Canadians, there is an opportunity to use this technology to address a critical need in stroke rehabilitation for evidence-based driving interventions that are contextually relevant, accessible, and cost effective. In this study, we will conduct usability analysis of the iPad™ and DriveFocus® mobile app alongside individuals with stroke and their caregivers to develop training protocols and improve the user experience for this new form of driver retraining.

Project Leads
  • Brenda Vrkljan, McMaster University



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