New research focuses on difficulties elderly people face when using smartphones

Study looks at age-related Smartphone use

A Strathclyde academic is investigating the difficulties older people may experience in texting and emailing on smartphones.

Dr Mark Dunlop will examine age-related effects on the ability to use touch-screens for text entry, and whether different keyboard layouts can help. He believes the research could have a major impact on personal wellbeing.

“It’s estimated around 25 per cent of emails are now opened on mobiles, and as the older working population rises, more workers will need to keep using their mobile technologies for work into their mid-to-late 60s,” he said. “Furthermore, many will want to continue professional, social and lifestyle usage into their late retirement.”

Most mobile technologies now rely on touch-screen keyboards for popular functions such as email, social networking, texting and web or map searches. Dr Dunlop, of the Computer and Information Sciences department at the University of Strathclyde, said: “While there have been numerous studies into text entry usage on touchscreens, there has been very little work studying the effects of ageing on text entry – and none on modern touch-screen phones where reduced visual acuity, reduced motor control and reduced working memory are all likely to have an impact.

“Our initial studies have also shown that older users may be willing to adopt new keyboard layouts and technologies more than younger users, who have different experiences with the QWERTY layout.”

As part of Dr Dunlop’s two-year investigation – backed with £286,000 of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council funding – his research team will work with older adults to conduct participatory design sessions of prototype keyboards, to test how effectively they can use different forms of touch-screen entry methods.

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