Instructional Design for Older Computer Users: The Influence of Cognitive Factors
Roger W. Morrell Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan
Katharina V. Echt University of Georgia
Personal computers are an integral part of the 1990s. They are used for a variety of purposes, from controlling inventories to balancing check- books to writing book chapters such as this one. Although recent advances in electronic technology have resulted in the widespread use of computers by children and teenagers in educational and recreational settings and by young and middle-aged adults in business environments, it appears that the information highway has bypassed a majority of older adults. Results from several surveys reveal that adults over the age of 65 report using electronic devices less often and have less experience with personal computers than younger adults ( Brickfield, 1984; Kerschner & Hart, 1984; Rogers, Walker, Gilbert, Fraser, & Fisk 1994; Schwartz, 1988), thus allowing them fewer opportunities than younger individuals to participate in contemporary culture ( Furlong, 1989).
There are several reasons for the discrepancy between younger and older individuals' use of computers. The first reason is that, historically, the cohort of individuals over the age of 65 matured during a time when electronic technology was being conceived. Throughout most of these adults' lives, many of the electronic innovations in communication that are available today had not been realized. It is only within the last decade that electronic technology has become exceedingly pervasive in our society. Thus, opportunities were not available for today's older adults to learn how to utilize many of these types of products. Furthermore, the instructional manuals that accompanied most early personal computers were generally time intensive and/or