Education and Training for Older People: Preparing the
Inmaculada Plaza, Raúl Igual, Carlos Medrano, Angel Sánchez, Mª Pilar Pérez
and Cristina López
EduQTech R&D&i Group, EU Politécnica de Teruel, University of Zaragoza,
C/Ciudad Escolar s/n, 44003, Teruel, Spain
Abstract. Older people will play an important role in aging societies. Addition-
ally, new technologies have a massive presence in our society, leading more
and more seniors to incorporate them into their daily lives. This trend will be
more pronounced in the future. Therefore services should be adapted to meet
the needs of older people. Specifically, their participation in education can help
improve their Quality of Life. An extensive literature search has been conduct-
ed to find eLearning educational environments adapted to older users. The
search has been focused on Spain and, to the best of our knowledge, we could
not find specialized platforms. Additionally, the use of mobile devices for edu-
cational purposes is underestimated. Thus, this work provides a list of manuals
and standards that could be considered to develop educational environments for
older users. They may be useful for developers, designers and teachers interest-
ed in this new promising line of work.
1 Introduction
The percentage of elderly people has steadily increased in most developed countries
(USA, Japan, several European States, etc.) over the last 20 years. The medical ad-
vancements and the social changes enable people to reach retirement age in good
physical and mental condition, which was unthinkable several decades ago. In this
sense, Figure 1 shows the evolution of the proportion of population by age group
from 2001 to 2012 in the European states, while Figure 2 presents the data of the old-
age dependency ratio forecast [1]. Since this study is focused on Spain, we have also
analyzed the Spanish case, obtaining similar results. Table 1 shows the life expectan-
cy in this country.
Additionally, the lifestyle as well as the motivations and expectations of older people
are changing together with the increasing life expectancy. People are living healthier
and more active lives [2]. In this context, products and services should be adapted in
order to meet the needs and preferences of the elderly people and create a cohesive
inclusive intergenerational society (see for instance the Japanese example in [3]).
Specifically, educational environments have the potential to increase the Quality of
Life of the aging societies. In fact, that is the main focus of the present work.
Plaza I., Igual R., Medrano C., Sánchez A., Pérez M. and López C..
Education and Training for Older People: Preparing the Future.
DOI: 10.5220/0004604100830092
In Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Interaction Design in Educational Environments (IDEE-2013), pages 83-92
ISBN: 978-989-8565-65-5
2013 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
Fig. 1. Proportion of population by age group in the European countries [1].
Fig. 2. Projected old-age dependency ratio in the European countries [1].
This paper is structured as follows. The second section is devoted to clarify the
concepts of “elderly” and “quality of life” as well as the importance of the training for
the aged people. The third section presents the elements that should be considered in
order to develop educational environments for this sector of the population. Specifi-
cally the Spanish case is analyzed. This analysis has allowed us to identify the gaps in
the existing educational environments, the standards that should be applied to them
and the guidelines that could be followed in the preparation of the future educational
frameworks (Section four). Finally, section five draws some conclusions.
Table 1. Life expectancy in Spain [4].
2012 2020 2030 2040 2050
Men 79,09 80,99 83,10 85,00 86,72
Women 84,99 86,37 87,95 89,36 90,63
2 Context
2.1 Old Age and Aging
According to Kelh and Fernández [5] any attempt to define the “old age” under
chronological criteria is fraught with difficulties. In the literature there are numerous
definitions and a high number of studies on this concept (see for instance the revision
of Fernández [6], [7], [8], [9], or [10]). In fact, this problem has been discussed for
decades. Similarly, it is possible to find a huge number of references to the concept of
“aging” (see [11] or [12] among many others). A deep study of these works is beyond
the scope of this paper, but all authors agree on one point: “older people” and “aging”
concepts refer to subjects aged 60-65 or over. [13].
2.2 Quality of Life
A plethora of definitions of quality of life have emerged over the last decades within
the health field and the social science disciplines. Therefore, there is no consensus on
a definition of quality of life in older age or among the frailer elderly population [14].
As a result, it is not possible to find a common approach on how to measure quality
of life [15] [16] [17]. Despite this variety, Plaza et al. stresses that there are several
common needs of older people identified in the literature as well as components of
quality of life [18]. They are related to: 1) Health and wellness and home care, 2)
Safety, security and privacy. Mobility, 3) Chores and supply with goods, 4) Infor-
mation, learning and education, 5) Religion/spirituality, 6) Social interaction, 7) Hob-
bies, and 8) Working life.
In this study, the interest is focused on the fourth item “Information, learning and
2.3 Information, Learning and Education to Improve the Quality of Life for
the Elderly
Traditionally, old age has been associated with a period of decline. Although this
view still persists to some extent [19], new and positive understandings about ageing
and being old are changing the way societies and older people see themselves [20].
With regard to the field of education, numerous personal benefits are associated
with training activities in the elderly [20]. Recent studies demonstrate that older peo-
ple learn as well as, or even better than, younger individuals [21]. According to Har-
ley [19], several authors argue that some older learners are likely to have excellent
time-management skills because they might have dealt with a variety of domestic and
occupational responsibilities for many years before they came to university. This has
also been observed in the workplace: older workers have often accumulated substan-
tial knowledge and devised efficient ways to do their work [22]. Creativity also re-
mains independent of age when given positive stimuli [18]. Gaßner has observed that
modern devices such as mobile phones, handhelds or e-newspapers allow elderly
people to stay informed. Information is essential for individual development, main-
taining contact with the outer world and preserving and exercising mental abilities.
Conversely, services are needed to enable people to handle the new technologies [23].
3 eLearning Systems to Older People
Some studies on Learning in Adulthood have been published [24]. Specifically e-
Learning and distance education can play an important role in helping older adults be
integrated into the society. However, several aspects should be first considered [25]:
the resistance to new technology, negative perceptions about older adults, class and
educational barriers, technical problems, usability issues, the course design and prob-
lematic new technologies.
After reviewing the literature, we conclude that both the resistance to new technol-
ogy and the negative perceptions about older adults are factors that can be overcome
(as an example, see the experiences of Trentin [26] or Mayhorn [27]). But at the same
time, the literature reviewed suggests that most of the projects on eLearning courses
refer to PC applications, while other devices like mobile phones remain underem-
ployed [18].
Thus, it is necessary to consider two aspects: the possible devices that could be
used and the human factors that can influence the design of an educational pervasive
environment for older people.
3.1 Web Applications
The Spanish eLearning situation has been studied using two sources of information:
a) On-line Courses and Training for the Elderly
An extensive literature search has enabled us to identify several courses for the elder-
ly [28], [29]. These courses usually consist of:
* On-line Slides
* PDF documents that are available for download over the Internet.
The courses focus mainly on the following subjects: Health, diet, therapies, mas-
sage, beauty, plants, horticulture and physical activity.
It is not easy to find specialized platforms adapted to meet the needs and prefer-
ences of older people.
b) Websites for Older People
Thirteen Websites were found and analysed [30]. They dealt mainly with the follow-
ing topics: Health and beauty, culture, family, money, home, leisure, information,
technology and other subjects.
These websites consists of several sections and resources such as TV channels, so-
cial networks, radios, questions and answers, games, blogs, online stores, videos,
weather forecasts, polls, forums and chats. In Figure 3, we show how the use of these
resources is distributed. The results show that forums have the highest level of ac-
ceptance and that other resources such as chats, blogs and online stores are also high-
ly valued.
4% 4%
Resource Percentage
TV channel
Questions and
Social Net works
Online store
Fig. 3. Resource Percentage used in Websites.
If we analyze in detail figure 3, we can see that there are no specific eLearning sec-
tions in this kind of Websites. Therefore, the training and educational activities for
senior citizens still follow the traditional model based on the physical class attend-
ance. So the distance, on-line or blended learning has not been explored yet.
3.2 Mobile Devices and Applications
We can identify two main groups of mobile devices for older people:
a) Mobile Phones Adapted to the Elderly Population
Twenty-eight different models have been analyzed in this study [31]. They share
several common characteristics such as speakers compatible with hearing aids, SOS
button, flashlight, extra strong vibration, low battery level indicator, entry call notifi-
cation, orange background light and black and white high contrast, hands free speak-
er, side keys (especially for adjusting the speaker volume), FM Radio, alarms, birth-
day reminders, extra-large concave keys or buttons and locator service. Table 2
shows an estimation of the percentage of models including these characteristics.
Table 2. Percentage of mobile phones that include relevant characteristics [31].
Characteristic Percentage (%)
Vibration 75.00
Reminders 64.20
Flashlight 60.70
Speaker compatible with hearing
aid 60.70
Low battery level indicator 46.40
Radio 39.20
SOS button 35.70
Additionally, common to all these devices is the lack of a free operating system,
which makes it impossible to develop dedicated applications, as well as the inability
to connect to the Internet, which limits the exchange of information. Therefore, dedi-
cated mobile phones are not the best option to implement educational pervasive envi-
ronments for the senior citizens.
b) Smartphones and Tablets
Within this category, twenty-four models have been analysed (twelve Smartphones
and twelve Tablets) [31]. All of them had a free operating system and Internet con-
nection. The main conclusion of this study is that most of the characteristics of the
mobile phones for seniors listed in Table 2 can also be implemented in smartphones
and tablets. For example the low battery level indicator, the SOS button, entry call
notification, the radio, the reminders, the strong vibration, etc. In addition, several
important services like fall detection or location, which are highly demanded by the
users, can be incorporated in these smart devices. In this sense, they also have the
potential to include educational pervasive environments for older people. Some peo-
ple may argue that seniors are reluctant to use smart devices. However, recent studies
have shown that mobile phone usage by people aged over 60 has been growing rapid-
ly [32], [33], and they are becoming common personal items for older persons [34].
Nonetheless, smart mobile devices, as they are conceived, represent a major usabil-
ity barrier for low-skilled users. Therefore, they should be adapted to the needs of
older users in order to improve usability and accessibility. In this sense, the next sec-
tion summarizes the guidelines and standards that could be applied by developers,
researchers or teachers to adapt the mobile devices.
4 Standards and Guidance Manuals to Design Educational
Environments for Older People
Older people present a specific physical and mental condition that should be consid-
ered in the design of educational environments.
Kurniawan [34] identified issues related to the use of mobile phones by people
aged 60 years and over: 1) Buttons: Some are too small, rubbery, do not click when
pressed and therefore provide no feedback regarding whether the associated number
had been dialed, 2) Menus: Too many, and most of them are unnecessary and difficult
to understand and recall, 3) Devices: Too small to hold comfortably, 4) Text size: Too
small to read even with corrective lenses.
Several standards have been developed to provide design guidelines about infor-
mation technology, computer applications and Websites. They refer to hardware
requirements and human-computer interaction. Although they were not originally
designed for educational purposes, they could also be applied to training and educa-
tional activities. In this sense, the result of the research conducted is shown in table 3.
It consists of a list of standards that could be applied in the design of educational
Table 3. Standards applicable to the design of educational environments.
Standard Title
ISO/IEC TR 19766:2007 Information technology – Guidelines for the design of icons
and symbols accessible to all users, including the elderly and
persons with disabilities.
ISO 9241-151:2008 Guidance on World Wide Web user interfaces
ISO 9241-171:2008 Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 171: Guid-
ance on software accessibility.
ISO 9241-303:2008 Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 303: Re-
quirements for electronic visual displays.
ISO 9241-920:2009 Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 920: Guid-
ance on tactile and haptic interactions.
ISO/IEC TR 29138-2:2009 Information technology — Accessibility considerations for
people with disabilities — Part 2: Standards inventory.
1:2012 IN
Information technology.Accessibility considerations for peo-
ple with disabilities. Part 1: User needs summary.
3:2012 IN
Information technology. Accessibility considerations for
people with disabilities. Part 3: Guidance on user needs map-
UNE 139801:2003 Computer applications for people with disabilities. Computer
accessibility requirements. Hardware.
UNE 139803:2012 Web content accessibility requirements.
Additionally, other authors have published manuals providing design guidelines.
Without pretending to be exhaustive, we may cite the following: Web Accessibility
and Older People: Meeting the Needs of Ageing Web Users by W3C [35], Making
Your Website Senior Friendly – from the US government [36], Designing Web Sites
for Older Adults: Expert Review of Usability for Older Adults at 50 Web Sites [37]
or Guidelines to design smartphones applications for people with intellectual disabil-
ity: a practical experience [38].
As noted above, none of these manuals have been originally conceived to be used
in the education field, but they can serve as a reference to design and implement older
user-centered educational environments.
5 Conclusions
Older people reach retirement age in a healthier physical and mental state. Infor-
mation, learning and education are important factors that can help improve the Quali-
ty of life of elderly people, especially the more active minded. In this sense, new
technologies can be used to support the teaching-learning process. Specifically, we
have conducted an extensive search of adapted eLearning platforms in Spain. We can
conclude that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no specific educational envi-
ronments for senior citizens. We could also identify that the use of mobile devices for
educational purposes has not been explored yet. Therefore, in order to facilitate the
development of educational environments for older users, the present work has pro-
vided a list of guidance manuals and standards that should be taken into account. The
digital generations of today will be the elders of the future. Thus, it is necessary to
prepare for what is to come, and this is a new promising line of work.
The authors would like to acknowledge the “Chair in Innovation and Technological
Quality” and the CTP for their help. Thanks to the IEEE Foundation “Gobierno de
Aragón” and to the “Fondo Social Europeo” for their support to the EduQTech group.
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