This year, the tenth world conference Gerontechnology was held in Nice, France. The conference aims to bring together all stakeholders in technology and services for aging, mobility, health and quality of life. The main theme this year was Sustainable Humanity.
Sari-Anne Wiklund Axelsson was asked to give a presentation at the conference because she and her colleagues Anita Melander Wikman and Lars Nyberg have experience of focusing on more than just technical solutions in their research projects.
– Even if the developed technology meets both usability and is easy to use, it does not necessarily mean that older people use technology. Measuring the expectation of technology, among the elderly, on the basis of psychological and social factors we can predict if the technology will be used or not, says Sari-Anne Wiklund Axelsson.
Both Anita Melander Wikman and Sari-Anne Wiklund Axelsson have in their respective research projects invited older people to be involved in the research. For twelve years, Anita Melander Wikman has in various e-health project focusing on how to get people more involved in research and development. In her dissertation on the influence, participation and empowerment she developed a method called Participation appreciative action research.
– When researchers, developers and participants work together, we get a lot of knowledge from each other. Often we get a different view than if we did it all by ourselves, says Anita Melander Wikman.
She has also worked in workshops where researchers and participants gradually learned from each other, a joint knowledge-building.
Time for the citizen's perspective
Sari-Anne Wiklund Axelsson has used the method for Participation Appreciative Action research by seeking answers on how ICT could be used among older people who are trying to implement lifestyle changes. In the questions about the quality of life in relation to ICT she has adopted a citizen´s perspective, where a random selection of older people in Sweden participated.
– On the conference in Nice, I felt that it was obvious that participation in research and development was not as common as expected. Mostly advanced technological solutions were presented, but now it is about time to do research on the important socialization process where the user of the technology is the main character. I find it amazing that the voice comes from the people who research is all about, that they should be as natural as a researcher, that they should participate in the applications and also to be able to review the material.
Representing the guidelines for research
The approach in their work is also in line with the guidelines that the National Institute for Health Research and the organization Involve developed, that people should be involved early in the planning of research, get support for the commitment and trained in how research is conducted and reviewed.
The same week that congress was held in Nice, Sari-Anne Wiklund Axelsson and Anita Melander Wikman held another presentation at Vetenskapens hus in Luleå about seniors participating in the research. The positive response that they met showed that there is an interest to be consulted and more involved in giving feedback. In articles to journals such as the British Medical Journal, it is important to describe how patients were involved in the research questions, both in terms of design methodology, interpretation of results and implementation in practice.
– The elderly would love to be asked for similar cooperation with Luleå University of Technology in health research, and it feels very positive, says Anita Melander Wikman.