mobi.senior.a – Tablet und Smartphone: senior citizens in the mobile and digital world

mobi.senior.A – Tablet and Smartphone: senior citizens in the mobile and digital world

The project mobi.senior.A engages in exploring gender specifics of internet use with tablets and
smartphones in the target group of senior citizens. www.mobiseniora.atThe main aspects are requirements, motivations, strategies of appropriation, obstacles, access, applications, etc. for the elderly users.

At present senior citizens have the largest growth rate regarding the use of internet and show a large growth potential in regards to use of mobile devices as smartphones or tablets. Today, internet access and its competent utilization represent an important aspect in social participation (“Social Inclusion“). Therefore, mobi.senior.A investigated into elderly users’ specific requirements for mobile devices used to gain internet access. Investigations included literature research as well as an empirical mixture of methods, consisting of interviews of single persons as well as pairs, discussions among focus groups, usability tests and cultural probes. Results show that senior citizens are confronted with a multitude of challenges when using mobile devices. At present, their needs and requirements are not yet met with in the development of smartphones, tablets and apps. Although there is a certain level of commonality, senior citizens present a markedly heterogeneous target group, which is primarily due to individual technical experience and education. Besides self-motivation senior citizens often acquire smartphones or tablets when activated by their social environment (e.g. device is a present). Initial setup and operation mostly constitute a major obstacle, especially if there is no or only little technical knowledge. In this case senior citizens often wish for support by others as well as comprehensible instruction manuals, enclosed with the device. They also would like low-threshold training courses focusing on everyday use. In some cases, software and hardware cannot be intuitively used, which is a main barrier (e.g. they do not meet users’ expectations or display inconsistencies). In addition, elderly users often experience difficulties associated with text input or gesture based interaction. The use of incomprehensible (English) technical terms also constitutes a major problem. Furthermore, many elderly citizens do not have the basic comprehension of the functioning of digital media (“Conceptual Model”). These usability problems lead to higher barriers and uncertainties than with younger people – possibly even to the abandonment of the device. Regarding internet access (e.g. possession of personal computers resp. mobile devices) there are great differences between elder female and male users, which, however, cannot be defined as far as areas of practical use resp. handling barriers are concerned. Senior citizens expect that apps offer practical usefulness in everyday life. After phone calls, communications applications (e.g. text messages, Skype or WhatsApp) are the most popular function of smartphones, followed by taking pictures and mobile applications that facilitate everyday life. Further results of this study include practical recommendations for the didactic structure of courses for senior citizens, target group-focused sales advice and support as well as the development of mobile devices and applications. Based upon these results guidelines have been developed which are available free on starting in 2016.

Furthermore, in developmental stage are:

  • gender inclusive educational measures to promote digital competences in elderly citizens. Above all, in contrast to standardised internet courses, programmes which have effective implementation from gerontological studies should be given preference. Additionally, also organisational and strategic issues are relevant. Based on practical tests the results are summed up in a manual for practitioners and disseminated to institutions and people in adult education in Austria.
  • innovative formats for gender-sensitive advice to purchasing and support of seniors. The main recommendations will be prepared in a guideline. The practical relevance of these findings is ensured by the active involvement of the largest Austrian mobile operator A1 (see “Letter of Intent”).
  • a guide for the development of target group-oriented apps. In practice, apps are not adjusted to gender- and age-specific needs of senior citizens. The app market grows rapidly, numerous Austrian SMEs are active in software development. This measure aims at raising awareness among software developers for gender- and senior-specific requirements and serves as a practicable and manageable tool.



Further information is available in German or please contact:
period: September 2013 – February 2016
Büro für nachhaltige Kompetenz B-NK GmbH
Österreichisches Institut für angewandte Telekommunikation (ÖIAT)
ZIMD Zentrum für Interaktion, Medien & soziale Diversität
Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (BMVIT, Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology)
Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft (FFG, Austrian Research Promotion Agency)