Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Digital inclusion and active ageing: Developing a user-centered methodological approach to investigate the use of mobile phones among older people

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
5.03.00  Social sciences  Sociology   

Code Science Field
S274  Social sciences  Research methodology in science 

Code Science Field
5.04  Social Sciences  Sociology 
active ageing, digital inclusion, quality of life, user-centred methodological approach, mobile phones, assistive technology
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (12)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  30704  PhD Jernej Berzelak  Public health (occupational safety)  Researcher  2015 - 2016  122 
2.  31339  Tina Dolenc  Sociology  Researcher  2016 
3.  23424  PhD Vesna Dolničar  Sociology  Head  2014 - 2017  333 
4.  15257  PhD Valentina Hlebec  Sociology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  625 
5.  28323  PhD Matic Kavčič  Sociology  Researcher  2016 - 2017  124 
6.  38368  Miha Matjašič  Sociology  Researcher  2015  33 
7.  36854  Boštjan Mur    Technical associate  2014 - 2017  12 
8.  19074  PhD Gregor Petrič  Sociology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  261 
9.  27574  PhD Andraž Petrovčič  Sociology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  290 
10.  33521  PhD Ana Slavec  Interdisciplinary research  Researcher  2016  230 
11.  38019  Mojca Šetinc  Sociology  Researcher  2016 - 2017  49 
12.  10155  PhD Vasja Vehovar  Sociology  Researcher  2014 - 2017  840 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0582  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences  Ljubljana  1626957  40,385 
Contemporary societies are facing two striking trends: widespread population ageing and rapid diffusion of ICTs. Since old age often implies ailing health and social isolation, societies could embrace the advances in ICTs to enhance social integration, health and active ageing. However, the complexity and novelty of ICTs threaten many older people with exclusion from their use. Older people could be offered e­services, which would improve their quality of life, if based on age­friendly design. Although digital inclusion is strongly advocated in the EU research and policy strategies and associated with positive outcomes such as high quality of life for older people, and new market opportunities for ICT system providers, the uptake of assistive technologies (ATs) among elderly is slow-moving.   In this context, mobile phones represent an opportunity for digital inclusion due to their already widespread use among the elderly. Especially, their poorly exploited integration with ATs could foster active ageing. Therefore, the project is directed towards studying socio­technical affordances of ATs in mobile phones to foster inclusive and empowered ageing of the heterogeneous group of the elderly.   The project is original on the conceptual and methodological level: (based on the integration of technology acceptance models and theory of person-environment exchange processes) an eco-gerontechnological model will be developed which enables a holistic conceptual link between ageing well and acceptance of mobile applications among older people; (based on adaptation of the Experience and Application Research and human-centred design process - ISO 9241) a user-focused, participative, iterative, context-aware, mixed-methods and age-friendly methodological approach for studying the needs, use, usability and benefits related to mobile phones will be developed.    Other main results of the project are as follows: The identification and empirical evaluation of crucial factors (i.e., personal and environmental characteristics, exchange processes) that should be considered when designing mobile services that contribute to subjective and objective dimensions of quality of life of older people. Development of detailed user profiles based on a segmentation of older (non)users of different types of mobile phones that will be based on the study of lifestyles, needs and motives for usage of mobile phones, integration in the social environments, personal characteristics, etc. Benchmarking and usability, accessibility and scalability analysis of existing ATs and mobile phones' services for older people. Development of (a) paper prototype(s) of optimal mobile application(s), its evaluation and study of its implementation among the potential end-users. The project brings together over two decades of internationally recognized interdisciplinary research by the project team in areas of (a) social informatics, (b) social science methodology, including mixed-methods data collection and evaluation designs for elderly, (c) gerontology, (d) experience with large international (FP5, FP6, FP7, COST Actions, LLP, Interreg) empirical digital inclusion projects and (e) developments of web applications for elderly (online learning games).   The core research team will tightly cooperate with the Sociomedical Institute at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, one of the leaders in research related to intergenerational relationships and ageing, and the research unit at Simobil, the second largest mobile phone carrier and the co-funding partner in the project, which – as a member of Telekom Austria Group – has a recognized group of experts specialized in usability testing of mobile services. With the participation of world-leading scholars in the abovementioned fields the project is expected to contribute to a global breakthrough in the integration and business exploitation of assistive and mobile services.
Significance for science
The project provided important scientific contribution that warrants further scientific developments in at least two regards. First, by advancing and reinforcing the knowledge base on the appropriation and uses of mobile services by older people, it had a significant impact on the fields of ICT & society research, social informatics, gerontechnology, and sociology of ageing. Secondly, by pursuing scientific rigor and excellence in establishing a methodology of participatory user-centered design of mobile phone applications, it had an important impact on the methodological advances for design, development, and evaluation of new ICTs. The project addressed one of the most intriguing questions regarding the social impact of new technologies – that is how the appropriation and use of ICTs and ICT-based services is related to questions of social inclusion, social cohesion, social capital, and other important qualities of a healthy, democratic and just society. The project advanced the knowledge in this respect by investigating an under-researched, but highly relevant question of how older people appropriate and use assistive technology (AT) and mobile phones. This newly developed integrative approach presents the first, comprehensive, socio-technical analysis of the issue of digital inclusion, active aging, and mobile services as a result of collaboration of a team of skilled home researchers and world-class foreign experts coming from different disciplines: environmental gerontology (Prof. F. Oswald), gerontechnology (Prof. A. Sixsmith and Prof. H.S.M. Kort), mobile communication research (Prof. L. Fortunati and Prof. L. Haddon), human-computer interaction, and social informatics. In such way, an important common terrain was set for a cross-fertilization of ideas between the disciplines. The second valuable scientific impact of the proposed project refers to the development of an original methodological approach to design, development and implementation of consumer technologies for older people, which is based on principles of user-centered design, participation and integration. The proposed methodological approach was developed in order to study the use and usability of smartphones among the older people that is based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as on active and interactive inclusion of potential end-users. By demonstrating the importance of optimized human-centered design process with a sophisticated methodology that secures a more inclusive involvement of older people in developing ideas with a high potential for technological innovation, high impact on the scientific field that deals with such issues has been achieved. Conceptual, methodological and empirical deliverables of the research project were published in five scientific publications in Scopus SCI or SSCI listed journal and presented at 10 international scientific conferences.
Significance for the country
The project resulted in numerous direct impacts on various societal levels in Slovenia: (1) Impact for business partner: One direct impact for co-funding organization was provided on the basis of results of segmentation of older (potential) users of mobile services, which industry erroneously treats as a homogenous group. Accordingly, using provided segmentation model it will be able to response to their needs by providing them with tailored mobile phone services. Additionally, methodological approach can be directly used by the business partner in an efficient development of mobile phone innovations for older people. (2) Impact for companies and economy: The methodological approach for efficient development of consumer technologies with expected high success rate on the market can be applied by any company that is interested in such services. Project’s outputs offer many ideas for start-ups in the mobile application market. (3) Impact for older people: Results of the research activities can contribute to an improved personal life of older people in terms of an increased personal independence, enhanced and prolonged digital inclusion and active participation in society for the ageing population through the effective use of useful, affordable and usable support services on mobile phones. By addressing needs of older people in key service areas of high impact such as activities of daily living, safety and participation in their local neighborhood, a path is opened for active ageing, delivering positive impacts on older peoples’ wellbeing and quality of life. (4) Impact for state/society: The project’s activities can be understood as an applicative response to troubles of contemporary societies that are challenged with ageing population. Use of developed user-centred methodological approach in mobile phone applications development can have a direct impact in terms of lowering the burden of social circles of older people, the burden of informal carers, as well as in terms of financial effect on the health and social security system by complementing their functions. The research project indirectly contributed to the following important social consequences in Slovenia: The project was strongly embedded in the current and future Slovenian and European information society policy contexts. Specifically, the project addresses one of the priority topics of the Directorate for Information Society (Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology) that refers to stimulation of activities for digital inclusion, particularly among older people. The project also influenced public opinion by demonstrating that older people can take any opportunities that are offered by new ICTs. Common sense usually resorts to stereotypes of older people as aversive to (new) ICTs, but disseminating the positive experiences of older people with new mobile applications can help transcend the existing technofobic discourses and can lead to higher acceptance of new technologies by older people. The project also promoted inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration of Slovene researchers by bringing together an international group of researchers and business partners from different fields and with distinguished experience with collaboration on successful IT projects. The project contributed to the actualization of undergraduate and graduate programs at the Faculty of Social Sciences. The conceptual tool, methodological approach for user-centered technology design and other deliverables of the project were taken by students as baseline for five bachelor theses and two master theses. Furthermore, project deliverables improved the knowledge on the question of social aspects of new technologies in the context of older people, which is underrepresented in the curriculums of universities in Slovenia.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2014, 2015, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2014, 2015, final report
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