Smartphones and tablets are not suitable for everyone.
Many older people have no problem using tablets and smartphones, and like to keep themselves up to date with technological trends. Although the bulk of the population below the age of 65use the Internet on a daily basis (and many are wondering how they can reduce their Internet usage), figures from Statistics Norway show that 56% of people over the age of 75 have had neither a voice nor a video call via the Internet in the last 3 months (Statistics Norway, 2021).
Despite the fact that many older people have a positive attitude to technology, many encounter barriers in interacting with it (Vaportzis, 2017, Geriatrisk sykepleie, 2018). For many seniors, this can come as the result of reduced physical function (for example due to reduced muscle strength) or cognitive function (for example due to subjective cognitive failure) (Culén & Bratteteig, 2013).
Typical functions with which older people struggle are:
- too many functions (Mitzner et al., 2010),
- data protection and security (Mitzner et al., 2010),
- text size and/or screen and colour contrasts (Sobral & Sobral, 2021)
- touch screens (Culén & Bratteteig, 2013).
These types of challenges mean that some older people never learn to use tablets. For example, one study shows how older people over the age of 70, after 4 months of a tablet course, still could not perform specific tasks (Alvseike & Brønnick, 2012). And, for older people who are not familiar with devices such as tablets, using them relies on the presence of families or carers to administer the activity (Geriatrisk sykepleie, 2018).
Easy to useWhen we made Komp, we based the development work on much of this research. Komp removes the need for technical assistance from family or carers, and bypasses unnecessary and complicating functions. The Komp screen has only one button, and no menus, error messages, user name or password. This means that anyone can receive video calls, messages and images, regardless of their prior technological knowledge or skills. Komp’s key functions were developed on the basis of feedback from older people and family members who were involved in pilot testing (No Isolation, 2018):
- Komp has no touch screen, user name, password, convoluted menus or error messages to deal with.
- Komp has a large screen, good contrast and clear sound
- Komp can be connected to WiFi or the Internet through inbuilt 4G
Research shows that Komp...
- Can create a digital family presence and prevent loneliness
Komp users had “more social contact and felt more involved in the lives of their relatives after they got Komp”. The same study found that “the majority of the relatives interviewed think that Komp helps to reduce loneliness and social isolation in users” (Oppedal, Askheim & Haldar, 2019: 9; 10; Rasmussen, Askheim, Oppedal & Haldar, 2021: 368).
- Is easier to use than smartphones and tablets
Interviews with 21 older Komp users shows that “all of them think that the Komp is very easy to use (Oppedal, Askheim & Haldar, 2019: 8). Another study supports this; most of the older Komp users “were very satisfied with Komp” and said that it was “easy to use” (Berg & Myren, 2021: 5). Compared to smartphones or tablets, Komp’s large screen and single button are convenient for older people with visual impairment (Badawy et al., 2022: 9).
- Improves older people’s quality of life
Research shows that Komp “[was] largely felt to be positive and something that improved quality of life” (Oppedal, Askheim & Haldar, 2019: 9).
- Improves older people’s feeling of being included
In particular, older Komp users highlight “the feeling of being ‘there’ in places or situations where the users would not otherwise have had the chance to be included” as something positive (Oppedal, Askheim & Haldar, 2019: 8; Badawy et al., 2022: 8).
- Makes older people feel safer
Some older people are worried about their health. In these cases, the family can call up and see the older person via video call. For other older people, the fact that their family can see when Komp is turned on and off is enough for them to feel safe. The opportunity to keep an eye on the older person via Komp “was perceived as thoughtfulness” by the older person (Berg & Myren, 2021: 8).
- Improves contact between the older person and relatives/healthcare personnel
Komp users “felt that they had closer contact with their family through Komp. The perception of having closer contact with the family was linked to the fact that they could follow the development of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, in a way that they had not previously been able to. They pointed out that they gained an insight into the family’s everyday life, the here and now – without being physically present” (Berg & Myren, 2021: 6: Badawy et al., 2022).
- Helps older people to live at home longer
Research shows that Komp creates closer family contact, activates a broader part of the network, creates lovely moments between healthcare personnel and recipient, creates a sense of security for older people who live at home and improves their quality of life. However, research shows that some of the differences between those who move into institutions and older people who live in their own home for longer are a lack of social contact and loneliness, as well as uncertainty and anxiety. Falls and cognitive failure are also important reasons why older people are institutionalised (Munkejord et al., 2018; NOU, 2011).