ERCIM News No.37 - April 1999
The Seniornett Project
by Sidsel Bjørneby
The SENIORNETT project was about user aspects of Internet that are success criteria or create problems in relation to human factors aspects of elderly people. The project ran from 20 October till 31 December 1998 and was carried out by Human Factors Solutions in Oslo, Norway for the organisation Seniornett Norge. The users involved in the research were elderly Internet users at a library in Oslo.
The research was done as a pilot for a main project in year 1999 and 2000, where user interface will be developed as an iterative process, and where parallel research will identify effects on the communication patterns of elderly people on the Internet.
The rapidly growing number of elderly people, and the interest they show in using the Internet is the background for starting the organisation Seniornett Norge in 1997, with the aim of increasing the participation of elderly people in the information society. After some user trials the organisation wanted to create their own gateway to world wide web through a web site where elderly people could feel more confident than when entering regular web sites. Human Factors Solutions was asked to help them with this, and www.seniornett.no was established early in 1998. Contents are created and links mostly identified by a group of 18 active, resourceful elderly Internet users, who are divided into five groups according to topics.
The aims of project:
- Identification of aspects of Internet as a baseline for developing interfaces and contents which are adapted to the functional needs of elderly people.
- Identification of types of networks where elderly can and want to communicate on the Internet.
- Identification on relevant web information on Internet interface for elderly and disabled users.
- Start the design of a web site that can be a good example of web sites adapted to the functional problems of elderly people.
- Structured discussions with elderly Internet users about their opinions and experiences.
- Questionnaire to elderly Internet users.
- Internet search for relevant web sites
- Contact with organisations of handicapped people to find potential similarities between their use of Internet as compared to the Internet use of elderly people
- Contact Nordic and European web sites for elderly people to identify interest in common future projects.
Identified User Aspects and Attitudes
Age related changes of relevance to Internet are mostly within visual, sensory and cognitive abilities. These are not identified as handicaps by the users themselves, but rather as normal changes that affect their use of the Internet, and that requires specific adaptations to the web sites designed for them. These aspects need to be taken into account when developing web sites accessible to elderly people.
The overall experience and attitude of elderly people to the Internet is positive. They enjoy being able to take part in modern aspects of life, and to have the opportunity to collect information and to communicate on the Internet and with e-mail. They demonstrate a curiosity and courage to take the Internet into use which far extends the expectations of society at large.
Contact with Senior Web Sites for Nordic and EU Co-operation
Positive contact is established with senior web sites in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy. There is a Norwegian group of elderly in Spain that are interested in contact/ co-operation.
As a result of the contact with organisations for handicapped people, it was agreed that it is possible with synergy effects on many points of interface design, but that the actual sites are better kept separate.
A main project is planned as a result of this little project, in order to achieve the aims of creating user interface and contents adapted to elderly Internet users. Firstly the project will be started in Norway, in close cooperation with elderly Internet users, but the aim is to include the work in further research in a project under Creating a User Friendly Information Society within EUs Fifth Framework Programme. This project will include two parallel activities:
- an iterative development process regarding user interfaces of Internet for the elderly
- researching the effects of Internet communication on elderly people.
The communication effects will be studied within different groups of elderly (geographically, more and less resourceful, within interest areas), between generations and between elderly people and society. The research is planned to be carried out by Human Factors Solutions, in cooperation with elderly users of Internet, the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Oslo, The Norwegian research centre NOVA and the potential European partners.
Sidsel Bjørneby - Human Factors Solutions
Tel: +47 22 42 18 57