Sustaining IT use by older people to promote autonomy and independence

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This collaborative research project will explore and examine the relationship between the dynamics of ageing and the dynamics of digital ICTs, in order to better understand how ICT can support or enrich quality of life and autonomy of older people as they age. It is known that digital ICTs have the potential to support older people to live independently, promote social inclusion or facilitate access to commercial or government services. However, as people age they often experience decline in their physical or cognitive abilities which can make it difficult to continue use of, or keep up with, digital tools and services. The resulting disengagement from the digital world can constitute a significant reduction in quality of life for some older people.

*This project is linked to a Canadian Research Project funded by CIHR-IA (link)


Leela Damodaran, Loughborough University Wendy Olphert, Loughborough University



  • Nottingham Trent University
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Dundee
  • Middlesex University
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • University of Lincoln

Contact details

Leela Damodaran


To address the complex sociotechnical research questions successfully requires knowledge and expertise from multiple disciplines and perspectives, in addition to that of older people. Accordingly, the Sus-IT CRP enables the expertise of academic researchers across a range of disciplines (participatory and user-centred design, psychology, gerontology, sociology, computer and information science, human-computer interaction, interactive theatre and learning technologies) to combine with that of and practitioners, product developers, local government, assistive technology providers and disability organisations.


The project aims to generate new knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of ageing in relation to the dynamics of ICT use and development. Through informing and influencing policy, practice, design and research, this knowledge will in turn enable older people to access, creatively shape, use and adapt ICTs to sustain and enrich their autonomy, independence and quality of life. Specific objectives are :

  • to strengthen capacity for effective participation of older people in ICT policy, research and design;
  • to investigate the potential of, and barriers to, sustained use of digital technologies by older people, and potential solutions to barriers;
  • to generate outputs which will influence policy, research and design, in ICT for older people.


In order to tackle the issues of diversity and dynamics, the research will use both qualitative and quantitative methods. This will allow researchers to analyse trends and draw conclusions, while the participating older people can have their individual perspectives recognised and respected. The methodology will include:

  • collection and analysis of relevant quantitative and qualitative data to understand ways in which older people can use and adapt technology to meet their continually changing needs;
  • innovation in methods for building confidence and capacity of older people to engage meaningfully in, and bring their diverse perspectives to, research into ageing, ICT use and sustained quality of life, and to develop and articulate their understanding of their own needs in relation to technology;
  • ethical and sensitive engagement with older people, recognising and responding to their motivations and expectations in participating;
  • innovative design approaches;
  • sustainability - building capacity for multidisciplinary and participatory research, and allowing for enhancement and development of the networks of connected and engaged older people during and beyond the project.

Policy implications

  • Understanding of how to promoting older people’s awareness of sources of help, support and information relating to ICTs.
  • Recommendations for helping older people to engage confidently with ICTs and sustain their usage.
  • Recommendations for engaging older people in collaborative research.
  • Strategies for engaging older people in shaping design and design decisions relating to ICT products, systems and services
  • Design recommendations for adaptive interfaces
  • Knowledge and information to enable our commercial (non-academic) partners and other companies to make design decisions tailored to the needs and characteristics of older people.
  • Development of innovative products (e.g. ICT products targeted specifically at older people)

Project publications

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