Re-discovering the difference technology can make

Ok, here’s E. He’s almost 70 years old, has his wife and close family around, but not the most extensive circle of friends, he’s been retired for 15 years because of MS, and still makes an effort to keep professionally updated. He has a computer in his home-office, but doesn’t really use it a lot. Kind of a hazzle with the wheelchair. E is one of our pilot-users in a project called Active Ageing.

In Active Ageing we’re looking at how to support active ageing through new services deployed by communication technologies to facilitate social participation and healthy eating (project-description as pdf). One of the things we’re doing is to follow a number of elderly people in four different municipalities. Our pilot-users have not used communication-technologies very extensively before entering the project. We give them iPads and we meet and interview them regularly. We will also involve them in service-design activities eventually, looking into how welfare and healthcare-services can benefit (if at all) by the use of communication-technologies.

Today, I visited E for the second time. I visited him first time in August, and he has now used his iPad for  four months. Thing is, I’ve been kind of worried that we’re far too naive in this project, expecting a very mundane device to make a difference. Like yeah, right, give an elderly person an iPad and her/his life-quality will improve. But when I meet our pilot-users, I realize that these devices that most of us now take for granted, that have nearly become invisible for us, are far from mundane and boring for our pilot-users. I can still remember the allure of the iPhone and iPad when they entered the market. They so invite you to play with them. Eventuallly I kind of forgot the allure; smartphones and tablets are just there, though absolutely important, and taken for granted.

The pilot-user I visited today, is one of the younger ones we’re following, being close to 70 years old. With the iPad cliches such as windows to the world, and the world at your fingertips become quite accurate. Can’t wait for the moment when the iPad becomes invisible for him, when he takes it for granted. That’s when the real fun can begin, right?