When we talk about older people in HCI, who are we talking about? Towards a ‘turn to community’ in the design of technologies for a growing ageing population

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Righi, Valeria
Sayago Barrantes, SergioSayago Barrantes, Sergio - ORCID ID
Blat, Josep
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cc-by-nc-nd, (c) Elsevier, 2017
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This paper addresses a number of challenges HCI designers and researchers deal with when designing digital technologies for older people. We conducted a 5-year research-through-design study, which combined ethnography, participatory design and real-life evaluation, to explore the design and use of technologies aimed to enhance the social life of older people. The paper explores widespread assumptions about the social category of older people and the meaning of technologies for them. This paper argues that assuming that (i) older people have unique needs and interests that set them apart from other user groups and (ii) the meaning of technologies remains unaltered on completion of co-design activities are both problematic, because they do not consider carefully enough the sociocultural contexts in which older people interact and engage in their daily lives. The paper posits that the meaning of technologies for older people and their own identities as individuals of a certain age are shaped within situated communities. Thus, technologies designed ‘for older people’ should be designed to meet situated and dynamic needs/interests of the communities (and not only of care) to which they belong. We draw upon our findings and other situated epistemological discourses in HCI to introduce a different perspective, a turn to community, in the design of technologies for an ever-increasing ageing population.
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International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 2017, vol. 108, p. 15-31