Radoslaw Nielek – Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology, Warsaw, Poland

What contextual factors make older adults unique?

The term “older adults” means for me person who is 65+ and retired (or work less then 10 hours per week). Although age is quite bad indicator allowing for prediction of person’s health and cognitive skills, it still tells a lot about social role and expectations of community towards this person. On the other hand, our study were conducted in countries like Mongolia where average life expectancy for men is almost twenty years lower than it is in Japan.

I think that the most important contextual factors are motivation and expectation concerning future (understanding similar to Future Time Perspective Scale). Even the healthiest and the brightest older adults are still in the situation where most part of their life is already behind them (how strong impact this have on a particular person is of course another question). Therefore, they might do not want to involve themselves in activities that are beneficial in long-term (e.g. learn new complex things).

Why do you think aging is an interesting area to research?

Hype is never a good thing for science, and thus, I think that aging research is not more important than other topics in CHI. This is just a topic that still needs more attention, more understanding and a broader approach that goes beyond HCI. Good examples are recommendation algorithms and reputations systems. My study published in [3] shows that we need to redesign reputation systems (ratings and products review templates and aggregators) because older adults use them differently. It is not a question of information overload, font size or contrast, but way they process and evaluate information and build trust.

What themes have you explored in your work?

tried to test how far can we “push” older adults to engage them in the process designing application (e.g. by asking them to be a part of teams during ordinary 24h long hackathon [5] or teaching them how to build mockups with the use of Adobe XD CC and proto.io [8]). I have also spent some time trying to develop solutions for healthy older adults that increases their well-being, e.g. by increasing their security and safety [6], reconnecting in later life [4] or engaging them into crowdsourcing activities (translation of TEDex talks [2] or contributing to Wikipedia editing [11]).

What research methods have you used to engage older adults in the design process or otherwise elicit relevant design criteria?

Together with my team, we have applied most of well-known methods (IDI, focus groups, participatory design etc. [4,6]). They work to some extend, but also have some serious limitations. Two most important are as follows:

  1. It is hard to collect valuable insight about application of technologies completely unknown for older adults (e.g. games or AR/VR),
  2. Difficulty in creating partner relationships between older adults and developers (usually relatively young people); older adults usually do not feel equal partners for development team,In order to solve the first issue, I have tried to combine learning and usability testing. It has worked quite well for designing exergame dedicated for older adults and studying limitations of Wikipedia editing procedures, policies and tools [11]. To address the second issue, I have tried to go beyond participatory design and try to teach older adults how they can build prototypes of application by themselves [8] (or in collaboration with teams of young developers during hackathon [5]). It turned out that teams where older adults do some works by themselves performed better (instead of doing only some consultancy work).

What aspects of aging, or what challenges in aging research, will continue to be relevant in decades to come, and why?

Despite some researchers claim that in the future technological gap related to age will disappear, I am strongly convinced that technological gap is inextricably linked with aging. Moreover, it seems that the gap will always cause some feeling of exclusion (use of outdated technology will stigmatize older adults) and limit possible benefits (usually new technologies offer more possibilities).

I think that the progress in medicine may eliminate biological aspects of accessibility such as cognitive limitation, manual skills or eyesight deterioration.

How will applications of the future differ from today for older adults?

Currently the gap between technologies for “ordinary users” and these dedicated for “older adults” is quite big. Therefore, there is usually a moment in life when people decide to stay with solutions they know and do not invest time and cognitive resources in getting to know new technologies/solutions. I hope that in the future we will have applications and technologies that will get older adults together with users (gradually adapt to changes in user’s expectations and needs). The ideal would be, if we also managed to eliminate the stigmatizing aspect of technology for older adults for their users.

What are you hoping to get out of attending this workshop?

Networking is always important as a part of this kind of events, but I think that even more important is an attempt to list crucial challenges/research questions related to ICT solutions for older adults. Moreover, it would be nice to sketch interconnections between these research questions. It may help us to understand how our results can help other researchers to solve their problems. I have the feeling that despite of years of research we are still quite far from solving the problem of technology acceptance among older adults. Actually, we even do not know what exactly this term means.


  1. Baez, M., Nielek, R., Casati, F., & Wierzbicki, A. (2019). Technologies for promoting social participation in later life. In Ageing and Digital Technology (pp. 285-306). Springer, Singapore.
  2. Skorupska, K., Nunez, M., Kopec, W., & Nielek, R. (2018). Older Adults and Crowdsourcing: Android TV App for Evaluating TEDx Subtitle Quality. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2(CSCW), 159.
  3. von Helversen, B., Abramczuk, K, K. Kopeć, W., & Nielek, R. (2018). Influence of Consumer Reviews on Online Purchasing Decisions in Older and Younger Adults. Decision Support Systems.
  4. Ibarra, F., Kowalik, G., Baez, M., Nielek, R., Lau, N., Cernuzzi, L., & Casati, F. (2018, May). Design Challenges for Reconnecting in Later Life: A Qualitative Study. Proceedings of the DIS 2018 Companion Publication of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 141-146). ACM.
  5. Kopec, W., Balcerzak, B., Nielek, R., Kowalik, G., Wierzbicki, A., Casati, F. (2018) Older adults and hackathons: a qualitative study. Empirical Software Engineering, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-017-9565-6 .
  6. Nielek, R., Godles, K., & Balcerzak, B. (2018, May). What are real problems of older adults and how to solve it with smart home devices?. In 2018 International Symposium on Consumer Technologies (ISCT) (pp. 70-74). IEEE.
  7. Kopeć, W., Nielek, R., & Wierzbicki, A. (2018). Guidelines Towards Better Participation of Older Adults in Software Development Processes using a new SPIRAL Method and Participatory Approach. arXiv preprint arXiv:1803.10177.
  8. Orzeszek, D., Kopec, W., Wichrowski, M., Nielek, R., Balcerzak, B., Kowalik, G., & Puchalska-Kaminska, M. (2017). Beyond participatory design: Towards a model for teaching seniors application design. arXiv preprint arXiv:1707.05667.
  9. Kopeć, W., Abramczuk, K., Balcerzak, B., Juźwin, M., Gniadzik, K., Kowalik, G., & Nielek, R. (2017). A location-based game for two generations: Teaching mobile technology to the elderly with the support of young volunteers. In eHealth 360° (pp. 84-91). Springer, Cham.
  10. Balcerzak, B., & Nielek, R. (2017, October). Golden years, golden shores: A study of elders in online travel communities. In Computer and Knowledge Engineering (ICCKE), 2017 7th International Conference on (pp. 199-204). IEEE.
  11. Nielek, R., Lutostańska, M., Kopeć, W., & Wierzbicki, A. (2017, August). Turned 70?: it is time to start editing Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Web Intelligence (pp. 899-906). ACM.
  12. Kowalik, G., & Nielek, R. (2016, November). Senior programmers: Characteristics of elderly users from stack overflow. In International Conference on Social Informatics (pp. 87-96). Springer, Cham.