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Home arrow Engineering arrow Designing technology training for older adults in continuing care retirement communities
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Summary of best practices

Constructing and implementing a successful technology training program can require quite a bit of work, and special considerations must be made when tailoring a program to the needs of older adults living in CCRCs. Below is a list of guidelines we recommend that technology trainers follow when beginning their own training sessions in community settings; it is our hope that these guidelines will increase the likelihood that trainers will be able to conduct an efficient and smooth technology

Intervention participants smiling for the camera during class

Figure 4.3 Intervention participants smiling for the camera during class.

training that participants not only will gain much out of but also will find comfortable and enjoyable (see Figure 4.3).

  • Understanding the learner. Take into account the physical and cognitive limitations of your students. To overcome mobility issues, hold the technology class in the CCRC at a central location, and provide furniture that is comfortable for prolonged seating. Provide a means for sick individuals to makeup missed classes. Put those with visual or hearing impairments toward the front of the class, and use a microphone when teaching. Speak loudly and slowly. Provide assistive devices to accommodate those with dexterity issues. Incorporate repetition into the protocol to account for slower processing speeds and declining cognitive ability.
  • Organizing the environment. Use a traditional classroom setup when possible if you are dealing with a large number of new students. Try to find a space that comfortably fits all students, trainers, and equipment (including tables and chairs) but also allows for mobility in the classroom (so that older adults with walkers, canes, or wheelchairs will not be inhibited in movement). Be cognizant of little details, such as how far away students are from the main projection screen, or the lighting in the room. Schedule the class so as not to overlap with other important activities, and be sure the room you are using is not only available for class but also for setup and takedown.
  • Ensuring the proper equipment. Have enough technological devices (and backups) for all participants and trainers. Make sure there are also a projector and screen, ample power supplies, enough training manuals, and enough furniture. Provide devices in public areas for CCRC residents to use outside of class to practice what they have learned.
  • Creating and presenting content. Listen to the residents and teach what they want to learn! If they do not want to know about Facebook, do not spend 4 weeks covering the intricacies of creating and using an account. Experiment with lecture and more interactive formats (lectures are best reserved for straightforward presentation of concepts). Take the time and effort to create a usable training manual, custom-made for your classes, that mirrors the lessons (or conversely, find a suitable prepublished manual and adapt your classes to mirror the manual).
  • Engaging and motivating participants. Be sure that instructors are well- versed in the topics they are covering in class and be sure that they are adequately prepared to present these topics to a CCRC audience in a loud, slow voice, and with an attitude of friendly professionalism. Surround the lead instructor with a teaching team who support one another while also being supportive of the students, both in a technical and in an emotional capacity. Battle discouragement and a lack of confidence in technological abilities among participants by enforcing the notion that "practice makes perfect." Promote a community where residents will help one another in the absence of an instructor.
  • Other considerations. Develop a strong relationship with the activity director to foster a rapport with the CCRC residents and with other CCRC staff; the activity director may also be able to supply additional assistance during the classes, if needed. Keep up with the latest technological advances and make efforts to prepare the participants, should they be exposed to these advances. Battle disinterest by engaging participants and keeping the classes light and fun.

As mentioned, the recommendations provided are based on previous studies and educational gerontology theories as well our experiences with teaching older adults in CCRCs. It needs to be stressed, though, that no two classrooms are alike, and the needs of the class will change based on a variety of factors, including the preferences of the students, the abilities of the instructors, the equipment available, and the culture of the CCRC. Thus, our best recommendation for technology instructors is this: be prepared for anything!

Recommended readings

Chaffin, A. J. and Harlow, S. D. 2005. Cognitive learning applied to older adult learners and technology. Educational Gerontology, 31, 301-329.

Duay, D. L. and Bryan, V. C. 2008. Learning in later life: What seniors want in a learning experience. Educational Gerontology, 34, 1070-1086.

Purdie, N. and Boulton-Lewis, G. 2003. The learning needs of older adults. Educational Gerontology, 29, 129-149.

Stevens, B. 2003. How seniors learn. Issue Brief: Center for Medicare Education, 4(9), 1-8.

 
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