On Thursday, May 18, 2023, the ADAPT Centre together with the Centre for Smart Ageing, TU Dublin, and the Centre for Engaged Research held a very interactive and insightful public discussion with older people in County Kerry on the role technology can play in enhancing the quality of life as people grow older. The event took place at Farranfore, Killarney in County Kerry.
The public discussion was intended to gauge the opinions and experiences of older people on digital technologies. The discussion is part of the ongoing ADAPT Centre’s Citizens’ Think-Ins, which is an initiative that seeks to explore attitudes and adoption of the broad range of new technologies available to support active and healthy ageing in Ireland.
ADAPT’s Think-Ins bring the public and researchers together to engage in a discussion that is aimed at growing the confidence of the Citizens’ in engaging with technology while at the same time exposing researchers to new and fresh perspectives on the implications of their research.
During the public discussion at Farranfore, the members of the public were divided into five groups each handling one scenario focusing on opportunities, impacts, risks and benefits of technology use. These scenarios and the topic of discussion are developed through a co-creation process with a sample of the Think-In public audience. A workshop was held in Kerry in March 2023 to co-create the three scenarios used in this Think-In.
The scenarios in this instance included use of online banking, home support technologies and social platforms that connect people digitally, like Whatsapp. Through the discussion, the participants acknowledged the important role technology plays in their lives but urged innovators to ensure that their tech innovations are inclusive and have tutorials that are easy to access, read and watch, particularly for the older population and people with disabilities.
Regarding online banking, while the participants feel online banking is useful, there is still some apprehension around it. Think-In participants are afraid of falling prey to fraudsters, hackers and scammers. Concerns stem from the fact that most of them are not well-versed with online security measures and do not trust the authenticity of online transactions. They also expressed concern about losing touch with the human interaction and personal service that they enjoy at physical banks.
Home support technologies such as smart home devices (like Alexa), wearable sensors and telehealth systems were seen as beneficial for improving safety, comfort and independence for older people living alone or with limited mobility. However, some participants raised ethical issues such as privacy, consent and data ownership that need to be addressed before adopting such technologies. They also highlighted the need for adequate training and support for using these technologies effectively.
Technologies that connect people digitally such as social media platforms, video calls and online communities were appreciated for reducing loneliness and isolation among the older community. The participants shared their positive experiences of staying in touch with their family members, friends and peers through these technologies. They also expressed interest in learning new skills on how to use these technologies through online courses and workshops.
However, some participants also pointed out the drawbacks of digital communication such as the lack of emotional cues and misinformation.
At the ADAPT centre, we organise public discussions to learn from people’s experiences and opinions on technology. These discussions inspire our researchers to come up with new ideas and solutions. They also help us to understand how people perceive and use technology in their daily lives.
The Citizens’ Think-In series is an ongoing citizen engagement initiative. They are open to all adult (18 years and above) members of the public.
A detailed summary of the outcomes of the discussions is included below.
Summary key points from the Think-In session
Some of the photos from the #DiscussAI Citizen's Think-In on the role of technology in smart and healthy ageing
The following researchers took part in the Citizens’ Think-In:
Abdullahi Abubakar Kawu (TU Dublin), Betty Amamukirori (Dublin City University), Fatima Badmos (TU Dublin), Damon Berry (TU Dublin), Emma Clarke (Dublin City University), Micheal Core (TU Dublin), Laura Grehan (Dublin City University), Lucy Hederman (Trinity College Dublin), Peterson Jean (TU Dublin), Paula Kelly (TU Dublin), John McGrory (TU Dublin), Emma Murphy (TU Dublin), Dympna O’ Sullivan (TU Dublin), Luke Quinlan (DCU Centre for Engaged Research), Helen Sheridan (TU Dublin)
Gearoid Kearney, Centre for Smart Ageing, Co. Kerry
Adrian McCarthy, Grandview Media