2012-06-22Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1159/000339104
Myths About Older People’s Use of Information and Communication Technology
This paper discusses six myths common in the field of ‘human-computer interaction (HCI) and older people’. These myths are widespread among computer scientists, engineers and programmers, as well as among the general public and even older individuals themselves. We can define these myths as follows. (1) Just wait and see. Future generations of older people will use computers without problems. This myth differs from those following, as it may lead to a (dangerous) conclusion of avoidance and inactivity by integrating myths 2–6. If the other myths are accepted as being true and one assumes that the problems will eventually solve themselves, it might not seem worthwhile to expend any effort on ‘universal design’ for older people’s use of information and communication technology (ICT). However, we argue that if we do not actively and properly counteract these myths, we will perpetuate them and their grave consequences. (2) Older people are not interested in using computers. They are unaware of computer capabilities. (3) Older people consider computers as useless and unnecessary. (4) Older people lack the physical capabilities to use ICT. (5) Older people simply cannot understand interactive computing technology. (6) You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The problem of HCI for older people is that they do not learn to use new technologies and interaction techniques. In discussing these myths, we demonstrate that each one contains a grain of truth. However, the myths are improperly overgeneralized and, therefore, often wrong. Such myths are problematic. Designers and engineers often accept them as truths and neglect older users and/or apply information and communication technologies in an age-discriminating manner. Furthermore, the myths are problematic as they lead older people to avoid computer usage (i.e. a self-fulfilling prophecy). We present evidence to support the notion that these myths may often be largely – although not completely – wrong. We then demonstrate how they can be counteracted through user-centered design, training and instruction.
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This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.