Draft blog post by David Wilcox April 26 2015
The symposium run by SEEFA on Transforming not excluding – the impact of information technology and innovation on later life surfaced how challenging it is for older people - and indeed anyone - to understand how digital is changing the world, cope with change, and adopt new technology where appropriate.
It seems particularly important, therefore, that organisations in the ageing field should be in the forefront of work to bridge the gap between policy-makers, technology companies, and local groups who are variously shaping the digital world, producing tech products, and dealing with practical issues of using digital services.
That's why the lack of any reference to technology in the Centre for Ageing Better strategy document, revealed recently, seems so important. But on reflection what's just as important is that fact that the Centre has engaged with hundreds of organisations in the field over the past year, and none of them seem to have raised the issue.
Full credit then to SEEFA for setting up an action group to focus on how people in later life can:
The Action Group’s overall aim will be to identify the steps that need to be taken in order to create a dialogue between people in later life and those who develop or deploy technology.
I'm delighted to have been asked to join the group, and SEEFA chair Peter Dale has asked us to come up with some ideas before the meeting on May 20. Here's mine:
It's not really possible to understand or even talk about the changes technology brings if experience is mainly limited to traditional office systems of email and document sharing. Apart from one or two meetings, the action group will have to work online, so that's a chance to try some collaborative methods.
From discussion in the symposium, the idea of worldviews - and practical examples - I think key issues include the increasing importance of networks over hierarchies, culture, and willingness to experiment, as well as the more obvious ones of skills, and easier to use devices.
The task for the action group is not to come up with solutions, but proposals for ways in which older people can understand and influence what's happening - whether at policy level, or in technology design. So - how can they gain most leverage, and explore what's involved in co-design. As a start I suggest:
It might be worth talking to the Centre for Ageing Better, who will also be starting to explore digital technology. Driving that exploration from the point of view of older people would be a good approach.
That would make a start on influencing as well.