Conference Abstracts

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COME IN SPINNER: the interface between older people and computer technology

McDonald, T. A., Connolly, P. & van Camp, L., 2008

6th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Education, Honolulu, Hawaii


Background: Quality of life in the elderly has been shown to be associated with social engagement, through interpersonal relationships and participation in social activities. Social isolation, particularly with family, is known to have adverse effects on both quality of life and health whereas involvement in mental as well as physical activity helps to maintain functionality in the elderly.

With the advent of communication technologies such as the internet and the world wide web (WWW), social isolation is now an issue that can be partly addressed and is increasingly as ubiquitous to everyday life as is the telephone and facsimile. Access to the internet will provide residents with an opportunity to keep in touch with family and friends, as well as gaining considerable mental stimulation through access to the WWW.

Objective: The aim was to test whether older adults with no experience of computers or their use could learn to use computers and peripherals, email and search the internet

Methods: In this project based at a large retirement village in Sydney, the team organised equipment and initial training to introduce interested residents to the internet and the opportunity to keep in contact with family and friends. The project also provided an opportunity for ongoing mentally stimulating activity.

Five computers were set up in a dedicated room with two people to a computer over a period of 6 weeks. In this group learning environment, a combination of written and verbal information was provided along with practical sessions and one-on-one coaching as needed. An internet connection was also provided to each computer to enable learners to experience electronic communication and access to the information super-highway.

Pre and post-test surveys were conducted and also follow-up interviews to gauge the extent to which the skills and information learned during the project were being used and valued. Residents were tested for their interest, knowledge and skill on the computers/ internet, and the amount of social contact they have with family and friends. Other areas of learning and proficiency were included in the testing associated with this project.

Results: Of the nine participants, most were unfamiliar with the technology, and hesitant in attempting initial hands on use of computers. Two participants dropped out of the course because it was not meeting their specific needs and the remaining participants evaluated the project as beneficial for learning about computer technology, How to operate computers and various software applications, and thy thought that the opportunity had been useful and had provided them with a means of sourcing information and maintaining family and social networks.

CITATION McDonald, T., Connolly, P. & van Camp, L. (2008) Come in spinner – the Interface between Older People and Computer Technology. Hawaii International Conference on Education, Paper 588. Waikiki. January.

NOTE ‘Come in spinner’ is an Australian invitation for the next person from the onlookers to join a gambling game of Two-Up which involves tossing two pennies into the air and letting them spin to a stop to reveal ‘heads’ or ‘tails’. It is a low-tech version of roulette.

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