Strategies for Enhancing Success in Digital Tablet use by Older Adults: A pilot study – Gerontechnology 


Purpose: Building on recent digital literacy initiatives, three strategies were identified for exploration, relating to successful use of digital tablets by older adults who lacked previous experience. The questions under investigation were: What are the implications of one-to-one support for self-efficacy and promoting attendance at digital literacy sessions? Could free tablets assist in overcoming economic and social barriers to participation? By what means could age-related physical problems with digital technology be combated?

Method: Between June and July 2016, eight older adults (five men and three women aged 70 to 87) attended a six-week course in digital literacy, supported by four volunteer tutors. Tablets were loaned to participants who did not own a device. A variety of accessories, such as styluses and hard cases, were discussed and shared.

Results and discussion: Weekly attendance was almost 100%, with no participants withdrawing from the course, and only occasional absences due to other commitments. The group displayed a wide spectrum of ability, from complete beginners to regular computer users, although all participants initially rated themselves as unconfident in relation to tablets. By the end of the course, self-efficacy had increased from 44% to 71%. Accessories proved popular with a number of participants, particularly for those with fine motor control issues.

Conclusion: Teams of tutors may promote attendance in comparison to lone-tutor-led classes or peer learning scenarios, and have the potential to impact positively on perceptions of self-efficacy. For older adults, particularly those from areas of multiple deprivations, access to free or borrowed devices may be key to participation, although a lack of access to home broadband can reduce ability to practice new skills between sessions. Modern capacitive screens offer reduced haptic feedback by comparison with the resistive screens on older mobile devices, leading some older adults to require further accessories in order to engage successfully with tablet computers.

SOURCE: Fletcher-Watson, B.; Crompton, C.J.; Hutchison, M. and Lu, H. “Strategies for enhancing success in digital tablet use by older adults: A pilot study.” Gerontechnology 2016; 15(3):162-170

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