Helping older people use technology can save lives

September 26, 2007

Making technology easier to use for older people is the focus of a Queensland University of Technology research team which has attracted $280,000 in funding in the latest round of the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects scheme.

The study, led by QUT design researcher Dr Thea Blackler, is one of 24 projects worth more than $7.2 million awarded to QUT.

The announcement tops off a successful week for QUT research, with the university awarded $3.1 million in ARC Linkage grants and almost $4 million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding.

Dr Black's study will investigate older people's "intuitive" use of complex interactive devices, particularly health care devices, and find out how their design can be improved.

"The research has the potential to save costly mistakes and even lives," she said.

Dr Blackler said it was a concern that even technologically-savvy older people experienced "more difficulty" with new technology, as our ageing society increasingly depended on it.

She said many older people, particularly over-65s, needed to be able to use technology to manage personal security devices, basic household items and health products such as diabetes monitors.

Dr Blackler's team includes research partners Professor Vesna Popovic, also from the School of Design, and Dr Doug Mahar from QUT's School of Psychology and Counselling.

"When people use new interfaces, they rely on their intuition, which is based on previous knowledge and experience," Dr Blackler said.

"For example, they might recognise the 'power' symbol from their computer on a remote control, and intuitively know that button will turn the DVD player on.

"There seems to be some problem with the way older people access their experience and we don't know exactly why - it could be because their experiences are not relevant to contemporary products."
-end-


Queensland University of Technology

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