Landscapes of Cross-Generational Engagement

The Net Neighbours scheme, which ran throughout 2005, involved local volunteers shopping online for older people, creating an opportunity for intergenerational friendship through the provision of this service. The Landscapes of Cross-Generational Engagement project aimed to build on this intergenerational engagement, supporting it while considering issues of place, environment and community. The intention was to enhance people’s experiences of growing older, investigating how interactive technologies can promote older people’s engagement with their physical and social environment and encouraging new ways for older and younger people to interact with each other.

The project involved the participatory design of novel interactive devices with people from across the generations, and the creation of scenarios in which age-based stereotyping was challenged and younger participants in the project were encouraged to reflect on ageing. Participants’ experiences with the devices created were analysed in detail, with the intention of providing a valuable source of information to inform the design of future innovative technologies and services and helping to specify how best to involve older people in the design process.

There were two specific communities of older people that participated in the research and for which we designed technology that would be relevant and useful. These were the residents and staff of a residential care home and the nuns in a Roman Catholic Abbey. Researchers at the care home worked with artists and schoolchildren to design a useful technological intervention, in the process producing portraits of the residents and designing a digital frame to support social activities around internet-based media. The design for the Abbey was a tabletop appliance with a small screen that showed news feeds and was intended to support intercessionary prayer.

Date: Apr 2010 – Dec 2010

Funding: ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council, £73,419

Researchers: Pater Wright (PI), Cas Ladha, Stephen Lindsay, Dan Jackson

Collaborators: Goldsmiths Interaction Research Studio, Mark Blythe (Northumbria University)