Accessibility and Beyond: Addressing the Technology Needs and Wants of Older Adults

Event Date: February 21, 2011
Speaker: Karyn Moffatt
Speaker Affiliation: University of Toronto
Sponsor: Prospective ECE Faculty Member
Time: 10:30 AM
Location: EE 118
Contact Name: Prof David Ebert
Contact Phone: (765)49-49064
Contact Email:

Older adults are quickly becoming diverse and savvy users of a broad range of technologies. Of adults age 65 and over, 38% are currently online, and of these, one in four has adopted social media. Though uptake remains low compared to that of younger generations, it is growing dramatically; for example, social networking use among internet users 65 and older doubled over the past year. These trends are encouraging because computer technologies offer immense potential to support individuals as they age — by compensating for cognitive and sensory impairments, by supporting independent living, and by promoting social interaction.


In this talk, I will first give an overview of my dissertation work on increasing the accessibility of pen-based interaction for older adults. Pen-based devices are an appealing platform for older adults because they allow users to take full advantage of their hand-eye coordination skills in a familiar form of interaction. However, research has chiefly focused on the accessibility limitations of the mouse as it has historically garnered more wide-spread adoption. As we move beyond accessibility, we can begin to explore the ways in which technology can be designed to further enrich lives and fulfill unmet needs. Within that theme, I will present ongoing projects aimed at better understanding the technological needs of older adults, and at envisioning new technologies specifically targeted to those needs.



Karyn Moffatt is the associate director of the Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGLab) at the University of Toronto, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellow, and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Fellow in Health Care, Technology, and Place (HCTP). Her research explores the ways in which technology can be employed to meet human needs and enable older individuals to overcome everyday challenges and obstacles. This work has led to a number of publications in top-tier academic venues and has been recognized with awards at ACM ASSETS 2007 and ACM CHI 2009. Karyn received her PhD in Computer Science in 2010 from the University of British Columbia, where she worked with Professor Joanna McGrenere on methods for increasing the accessibility of pen-based interaction for older adults.