Identifying Elderly People's Needs

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Identifying elderly people's needs
for communication and mobility
Sauli Tiitta
HIIT (Helsinki Institute for Information Technology), Finland
Elderly people; communication; mobility; participatory observation; narratives, user needs; security and group coherence.
The Finnish parliament's future commission has listed challenges in elderly peoples lives that could be overcome using new technology. The two most important inhibiting factors affecting the quality of life of elderly people were identified as solitude and immobility (O Kuusi, 2001). The purpose of this research is to identify everyday motivational needs concerning communication and mobility of elderly people and present a categorization that can be exploited when designing information appliances to overcome these difficulties.

Qualitative user research was used for identifying the phenomena typical in elderly people lives. Out of all observed phenomena the ones that were related to the elderly people's habits for communication and mobility were selected. These phenomena were documented in the form of narratives, which were individually analysed in order to uncover the motivational needs that resulted in the observed phenomenon. An iterative process was used to group phenomena with similar motivational needs in the same category. The process resulted in a categorisation describing the most likely motivational needs that should be taken into account when designing information appliances for the elderly.

When elderly people are getting older they spend more and more time at home and surrounding areas. They don't meet people anymore living far from them. That way their contacts with people get narrower. Face-to-face communication and mobility are in that sense hand-in-hand. When mobility decreases face-to-face communication also decreases. Technology should not encourage the elderly to stay at home but to be mobile in order to keep up their...
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