Tag Archives: dtlater

All posts

Exploring tech "later in life" offers lessons for tech challenges anytime

As  I reported in my previous post, I’ve just completed a team exploration at socialreporters.net into how we may use digital technology later in life for personal wellbeing. It has thrown up some wider lessons about how we might think about, and use, digital tech at any time in life.
The idea of an exploration as on open curating and reporting process came about from some work with the Big Lottery Fund, and then when the Nominet Trust invited me to write a provocations paper about young people and technology. Background on that here.
Instead of a closed research and drafting process, why not crowdsource ideas, run a workshop, develop contacts and aim to generate momentum around the topic at the same time? As I’ve summarised here, that process worked well on our latest exploration as well as the earlier one.
We now have a report with 10 proposition about digital technology and later life, a lot of background resources, and a network of people interested in learning more. You can join that network here.
It’s now time to see what more we can achieve, and to do that it seems appropriate to move from the structured approach we designed with our client on socialreporters.net, to something more free range, personal, and maybe a bit more provocative. I’ve explained the reasoning here.
John Popham has already made a start with an excellent post following up an issue I highlighted – the lack of collaboration between the bigger organisations in the field. That’s partly, I think, because there is intense competition for funding and little trust that a good idea or new theme won’t be picked up by another organisation without an offer of some part to play. However, John raises an even more fundamental issue:

The professionals and institutions which work with some older people are not comfortable with new technologies themselves. Issues here range from organisations which continue to block use of social media and will not or cannot provide their staff with smartphones, to technophobic frontline staff who pass their fears on to people they work with.

The organisations researching or promoting the use of digital technology with older people, often under the digital inclusion banner, may not be using it. Their “clients” are in reality funders who may not have a very nuanced idea of what’s needed either … so policy and development defaults to teaching people how to use computers and getting the numbers up for those allegedly engaged.
John identifies another couple of barriers to progress: the scariness of unfamiliar technology, and the lack of confidence (or willingness) of those who may be able to help older people to do so.
While these issues may be particularly evident later in life, I think they apply to many organisations and for many people at any time in life.
So one of the themes I’ll be exploring is whether we might use the challenges, and opportunities, of digital technology later in life as a good window through which to look at technology in life.  Our tag has been #dtlater. Should it now be #dtinlife? The government’s policy of moving services – and benefits – online means that opting out is difficult. Either you learn to cope with tech, or have someone act as a proxy.
Below are some of the 10 propositions we developed for the digital tech later in life exploration, that seem generally relevant to any time of life. Full report here.

  • Look at personal needs and interests as well as common motivations – one digital size won’t fit all.
  • Build on past experience with familiar technology as well as offering new devices – they may do the job.
  • Consider the new life skills and access people will need as technology changes our world – using technology is ceasing to be optional.
  • Turn the challenge of learning about technology into a new social opportunity – and make it fun.
  • Address social isolation and other challenges through a blend of online and offline – they don’t need to be different worlds.
  • Use digital technologies to enhance existing connections of family and friends – and help each other learn.
  • Look for ideas among those providing digital training and support – and help them realise them.

Here’s the main links cited above

All posts

Ten propositions about digital technology later in life

Since last blogging here** I’ve been engaged in an exploration at socialreporters.net into how we can use digital technology later in life … with a focus on personal wellbeing.

The aim, on behalf of the Nominet Trust, was to identify where anyone developing projects or investing funds might best focus. There’s a summary here of the open process that that Drew Mackie, Steve Dale, John Popham and I used to develop a draft report and the 10 summary propositions below.

While the main aim of the exploration has been to develop a consensus to guide development and investment in the field, the open nature of the approach yielded a lot of insights into who is doing what in the field, and how more might be achieved. More on that in the next post.

Ten propositions about digital technology later in life.

1 Look at personal needs and interests as well as common motivations – one digital size won’t fit all. While there are general benefits at any time of life in using digital technology – whether for entertainment, shopping, learning, information – everyone has different priorities and these will be shaped by life experience and current circumstances. The best way to engage people is to start where they are, the particular interests they have developed, and the personal challenges they face.

2 Build on past experience with familiar technology as well as offering new devices – they may do the job. New devices can be challenging, and recent developments of familiar equipment may offer an easier route for some. Smart TVs and smartphones may provide what’s needed without learning to use a computer.

3 Consider the new life skills and access people will need as technology changes our world – using technology is ceasing to be optional. Public services are becoming digital by default, and new opportunities for employment require at least an email address. It will be important to make the use of digital technology as accessible and easy as possible – or encourage people to act as “proxies” in helping make the connection with the online world.

4 Turn the challenge of learning about technology into a new social opportunity – and make it fun. Learning how to use digital technology can challenging. It takes time, and having someone to help can be important. Loneliness and isolation are a big challenge for some later in life. By getting together so learning becomes a social experience we can achieve benefits on both fronts, and enjoy the experience as well.

5 See digital technology for later in life as a major market – co-designing with users could offer wider relevance. On the one hand people are living and remaining active longer, and on the other hand facing a wide range of health and social challenges for longer. This will provide a growing market among older people, and an opportunity to design and test technologies for relevance and usability with any users than have diverse interests and capabilities.

6 Address social isolation and other challenges through a blend of online and offline – they don’t need to be different worlds. Digital technology can enable virtual friendships that lead to meetings, support social learning, and underpin projects for new forms of sharing both on the physical world and online. The greatest benefits may come from blending face-to-face and online activities.

7 Enable carers and care services – both for direct use of technology and to act as proxies.More could be achieved by integrating digital technology into services, and supporting carers in their use of technology. This will be increasingly important as older people who are not connected may require “proxy” helpers to use online public services.

8 Use digital technologies to enhance existing connections of family and friends – and help each other learn. Free video calls, photo-sharing, email, texting and the use of social networking sites are part of day-to-day communications with family and friends for many people later in life. Family members can help each other learn about digital technologies.

9 Value the role that older people may have in acting as digital technology champions – and providing long term support. Older people know the challenges of using technology later in life, and may be best at providing the continuing support needed for its adoption. Demonstrations and short courses are seldom enough.

10 Look for ideas among those providing digital training and support – and help them realise them. Those working directly with users of digital technology will have insights into what works, and where development would be valuable. With some support they could turn ideas into projects.

** Why the big gap in blogging here? I’m not sure … I just ran out of enthusiasm for the rather unfocussed reporting I had been doing. These days it is difficult to get much commenting on blogs, because there are so many places for conversation, so posts don’t usually yield much feedback. Tweets notifying posts may get retweeted (and thanks for that) but does it make much difference for the time spend in writing? The idea of collaborative, open explorations at socialreporters.net (one for Big Lottery Fund, two for Nominet Trust) has been more rewarding … not least because it yields a fee!

However, as I’ll explain in the next post explorations for clients do have some necessary constraints, and it is useful to have somewhere to fly some personal opinions. So I’m hoping to regain momentum here.