How older adults learn to use mobile devices: Survey and field investigations

Leung, R., Tang, C., Haddad, S., Mcgrenere, J., Graf, P., and Ingriany, V. (2012). How older adults learn to use mobile devices: Survey and field investigations. ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing, 4(3), Article 11. 


Motivation: Mobile computing devices, such as smart phones, offer benefits that may be especially valuable to older adults (age 65+). Yet, older adults have been shown to have difficulty learning to use these devices.

Goal: In the research presented in this article, we sought to better understand how older adults learn to use mobile devices, their preferences and barriers, in order to find new ways to support them in their learning process.

Methods: We conducted two complementary studies: a survey study with 131 respondents from three age groups (20– 49, 50–64, 65+) and an in-depth field study with 6 older adults aged 50+.

Results: The results showed, among other things, that the preference for trial-and-error decreases with age, and while over half of older respondents and participants preferred using the instruction manual, many reported difficulties using it. We discuss implications for design and illustrate these implications with an example help system, Help Kiosk, designed to support older adults’ learning to use mobile devices.

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