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Home arrow Engineering arrow Designing technology training for older adults in continuing care retirement communities
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The move to mobile-friendly interfaces

The somewhat drastic change in look, feel, and navigability between Windows Vista and Windows 8 posed a significant issue for our training sessions, but changing interfaces are something that should be readily anticipated and planned for. It is up to the trainers to be well-versed in a variety of technologies and their latest versions in order to prevent instances like this, and having an updated training manual that accommodates these interfaces can go a long way in helping residents successfully learn and master the technology without becoming overwhelmed or confused.

The question thus arises: In what direction will future interfaces go? What should technology trainers prepare for? What will the typical interface be 1, 5, or 10 years from now?

The general trend we have seen in recent years has been the move from a more traditional, desktop-computer-based interface (complete with a mouse, keyboard, and—yes—a Start button!) to a mobile-friendly interface. By "mobile-friendly," we refer to an interface that is easily used and navigable on a mobile technology, such as a smartphone or a tablet computer. Examples of popular mobile technologies include the iPhone (a smartphone) and iPad (a tablet).

The biggest difference between a mobile interface and a more traditional desktop computer interface is that the mobile interface is specifically designed to not require the use of an external keyboard or a mouse, even though it is possible to purchase a keyboard and mouse to plug into mobile devices. Rather, the screens of these devices are actually touchscreens—the user may use his or her fingers or a stylus to navigate to different folders and different pages by touching certain icons or swiping his or her fingers across the screen. Mobile interfaces, because of this, tend to have a different organizational structure with regard to their programs (as mentioned earlier), such as having programs listed and accessible on the home page rather than having to access them through the use of a Start button or Start menu.

Mobile interfaces are becoming increasingly prevalent as mobile technologies become more and more popular. These interfaces also provide a unique and exciting avenue through which to teach older adults how to use Internet-connected devices. An example is a CCRC resident who has tremors and therefore has difficulty using a mouse who finds the touch-screen capabilities of a tablet to be easier to use. There are some trade-offs, however; as an example, in a study that examined older adults' use of iPads, Jayroe and Wolfram (2012) reported that new users had difficulty using the built- in, touchscreen keyboard compared to an external keyboard. However, research by Tsai and colleagues (Tsai et al., 2015) found that tablets were easier for older adults to learn to use than were traditional computers. Although no ICT will be perfect, tablets appear to offer advantages over other types of ICTs for older adults. See the Recommended Readings section at the end of this chapter for other research on tablet usage among older adults.

 
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