The MIT AgeLab is pleased to congratulate Chaiwoo Lee on successfully completing her PhD thesis defense. The newly minted Dr. Lee's dissertation examines the factors that influence older adults' technology choices and usage patterns. In a rapidly aging world, tech companies stand to benefit by understanding what makes a technology appeal to the older consumer.
Lee's study found that factors of value, affordability, and system reliability heavily influence older adults' tech adoption choices. Her work also revealed that significant benefits result when tech companies include consumer input early in their design process.
Methodologically, Lee's exhaustive study included both a user survey as well as several case studies. Using both multiple-choice and open-ended questions, the survey assessed 609 respondents' knowledge of various technologies, experiences concerning the adoption of specific technologies, factors that played into the choice of adoption, and their demographic factors. The case study section, meanwhile, involved health and wellness support technologies, such as the AgeLab's eHome system, a medication monitoring device; AIST's PARO, a robotic seal pet; and Parental Health's MISTY, a touchscreen technology that connects patients with caregivers and family members.
Combining all of these research methodologies, Lee found that current technological solutions for older adults are limited by a lack of consideration for potential complications, overreliance on design stereotypes, and a lack of analysis of social contexts, as well as remarkable "experiential and cultural gaps between users and designers," she said.
Lee's work suggests that as we move forward in product creation for an aging demographic, we must extend our understanding of what she deems a "socially and technically complex issue." Factors that greatly influence older adults' adoption of smart technology include value, affordability, service trust, usability, and system reliability. Meanwhile, emotion, social support, and independence influence them less. By involving these consumers in the design process early, it's possible to tailor products closely to the factors that attract older consumers and retain them as users.
Not only does Lee's dissertation provide a crucial step in anticipating and meeting the needs of this increasingly important consumer segment, but it hints at great research to come: Lee will continue to work to shed light on the subject as an AgeLab postdoctoral researcher.