Aging and the Acquisition of Computer Skills
Sara J. Czaja University of Miami
By the year 2025, the global population of people aged 65 and older will increase threefold. Forecasts for the United States project that there will be 58.6 million older people by 2025 with the greatest growth occurring among people aged 75 and older (Office of Technology Assessment, 1985). At the same time as the population is aging, rapid technological developments are changing the nature of work, the form and scope of personal communication, education and leisure activities, and health care delivery. Computers are now commonplace in most public places and are becoming commonplace in home environments. Many routine activities such as shopping and banking involve the use of some form of computer technology. An important question is how well an aging society will adjust to these technological developments. The critical issue is whether technological change will enhance or impede the ability of older adults to live and work with greater independence. This issue is especially relevant for the current cohort of older adults, as a large percentage of them are unlikely to have had exposure to technology. This problem may be exacerbated by the fact that many system designers assume older people will have limited interactions with technology and thus fail to consider them as a potential user group in the design process. To ensure that older people are able to successfully use computer technology and to maximize the benefits of this technology for older adults we need to conceptualize older adults as active users of technology and understand the implications of age-related changes in abilities for the design and implementation of technological systems.