Building rapport

All of the needs discussed above can be addressed through the relationship the training team builds with the participant. Knowing the participant, their background, their history, and so on will allow for a relationship to develop and for trust to be built. We found it to be helpful to stop, sit, and listen. This was accomplished by arriving early at the CCRC so that we would have the opportunity to spend time with individual residents outside of the training session. Often, we stayed after the session and visited with individuals or groups of residents. Learning their names and calling them by their names is extremely important. If they believe that they are nothing more than a research subject or study participant, they will be less engaged and at a higher risk for dropping out. Being willing to ask questions about their day or week and then being willing to listen helped residents to feel connected to us. This relationship and trust are crucial in retaining participants. In our study, participants would occasionally tell us that they "really didn't feel like participating today" but that they came regardless because they told us they would.

In CCRCs, there are multiple levels of care. Some of the residents have few to no physical or cognitive issues and require no additional support, whereas others have significant physical or cognitive needs and require much more support. Treating all of the participants with respect, and not infantilizing them as you explain the technology, is important. When teaching, speak to the participants as adults and avoid "elderspeak"—a change in communication patterns when speaking to older adults that tends to cause communication patterns to be more simplistic, overly endearing, and repetitive. This type of communication can be patronizing and reinforces stereotypes of aging, thus alienating participants from trainers. Avoiding this is key in building rapport.

Another way to develop rapport is treating participants as equals in the learning process. To help with this, make sure participants complete the tasks by themselves. It will seem easier to help them move the mouse or make one small change for them, but that does not help the participants learn and it does not help them build the confidence needed to complete the task. Ensuring that they learn how to navigate each task independently means they have to learn how to troubleshoot and be confident in their abilities. This often means talking them through tasks, such as opening and closing programs multiple times, in a calm and patient manner. Building rapport with participants is paramount to the success of the intervention.

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