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Home arrow Engineering arrow Designing technology training for older adults in continuing care retirement communities
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Spatial and social barriers and connecting with others

During the course of the technology training, we found that moving into a CCRC presents residents with a host of constraints, both real and perceived, that can affect quality of life. These constraints can be both spatial and social in nature. With regard to spatial (or physical) barriers, older adults living in CCRCs may lack the mobility or the transportation that allows them to carry out daily tasks or engage with others— as an example, an older adult who has moved into a CCRC may lack the transportation needed to attend a religious service at the church the resident used to frequent and thus may not visit with old friends. Social barriers, as defined by Winstead et al. (2013), are "the cognitive and social constraints, real or perceived, which may result in reduced social connection and reduced quality of life" (p. 542). These can include cognitive impairment that hinders the development of new friendships in the community or difficulties in developing trust and ease with new residents in the CCRC. In short, moving into a CCRC can create an isolating environment for the resident that promotes feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

We found that the technology training that was offered allowed residents to increase their technology skills to a point where they were able to overcome these spatial and social barriers. An example of overcoming spatial barriers comes from our study, where one resident used Google Maps Street View to look at an old property where she used to live (in seeing the property, she exclaimed, "They cut down my pine trees!" but was overall extremely happy). Another resident used Google to search for websites related to her old church and other areas related to her hometown and remarked, "I feel like I visited home today." In overcoming social barriers, many participants in our study and other communities would remark how email allowed them to stay in better contact with friends and family; as an example, one participant noted how she used email to keep in touch with people from her old church.

 
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