dangerous conditions. Assistive
or prosthetic technologies substitute for some capability that is
impaired, much as a crutch may
be used after one breaks a leg.
Rehabilitative systems are used
to strengthen or revitalize an
impaired capability. An example
is working with a physiotherapist
after one breaks a leg to enable
walking without the crutch. The
most ambitious goal for technology is to preserve health. An
example is the vigorous commercial activity in the realm of brain-fitness exercise and game vendors,
who claim that regular use of their
software can slow mental aging,
just as regular exercise delays
These distinctions enable us to
describe research in terms of a
taxonomy, illustrated in Table 1.
seniors to remain active members
of their family and community
while pursuing their interests is
just as important as improving
Doing this successfully requires
interaction professionals to work
intensively with professionals in
social work, speech/language
pathology, nursing, and other
disciplines; community groups;
and, most important, older adults
themselves. For, as we know,
studying systems in use by real
users doing real tasks in real environments is the key to inspired
7. Benjamin, A., Birnholtz, J., Baecker, R. M., and
Gromala, D. Impression management work: How
seniors with chronic pain address disruptions in
their interactions. Proc. ACM CSCW 2012, 799-808.
8. David, J., Benjamin, A., Baecker, R.M., Gromala,
D., and Birnholtz, J. Living with pain, staying in
touch: Exploring the communication needs of older
adults with chronic pain. Ext. Abs. ACM SIGCHI
9. Massimi, M. and Baecker, R. M. Dealing with
death in design: Developing systems for the
bereaved. Proc. ACM SIGCHI 2011, 1001-1010.
10. Moffatt, K., David, J., and Baecker, R.M.
Connecting grandparents and grandchildren. To
appear in Connecting Families: The Impact of New
Communication Technologies on Domestic Life.
C. Neustaedter, S. Harrison, and A. Sellen, eds.
Springer, 2012, in press.
11. Fenwick, K., Massimi, M., Baecker, R.M., Black,
S., Tonon, K., Munteanu, C., Rochon, E., and Ryan,
D. Cell phone software aiding name recall. Proc.
ACM SIGCHI 2009, 4279-4284.
12. Snelgrove, W.X. and Baecker, R.M. A system for
the collaborative reading of digital books with the
partially sighted. Proc. BooksOnline’ 10.
13.Pandeliev, V. and Baecker, R.M. A Framework
for the evaluation of mental fitness games. Proc.
6th Annual Games for Health Conference. 2010.
14. Damianakis, T., Crete-Nishihata, M., Smith, K.L.,
Baecker, R.M, and Marziali, E. The psychosocial
impacts of multimedia biographies on persons
with cognitive impairments. The Gerontologist 50,
15. Crete-Nishihata, M., Baecker, R.M., Massimi,
M., Ptak, D., Campigotto, R., Kaufman, L.D.,
Brickman, A.M., Turner, G.R., Steinerman, J.R.,
and Black, S.E. Reconstructing the past: Personal
memory technologies are not just personal and not
just for memory. Special issue of Human-Computer
Interaction on Designing for Personal Memories.
2012, to appear.
16. Wu, M., Birnholtz, J., Baecker, R.M., Richards,
B., and Massimi, M. Collaborating to remember:
A distributed cognition account of families coping
with memory impairments. Proc. ACM SIGCHI 2008,
May + June 2012
We are thankful for financial support
from NSERC, the GRAND Networks
of Centres of Excellence of Canada,
Microsoft Research, Google Research,
the Alzheimer’s Association, the
University of Toronto Connaught Fund,
and MyVoice Inc.; and for the excellent
work of the many grad and undergrad
students, research associates, and
academic and clinical collaborators
who have contributed to the research.
We are especially grateful to the older
adults who have graciously donated
their time and energy to participate in
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ronald M. Baecker is a professor
of computer science, Bell Chair of
Human-Computer Interaction, and
also founder and director of
TAGlab, at the University of
Karyn Moffatt, recently associate
director of TAGlab, is now assis-
tant professor in the School of
Information Studies at McGill
Michael Massimi, associate director of TAGlab, just completed his
Ph.D. in computer science at the
University of Toronto.
We have learned much from our
work to date. The challenges and
opportunities for technology are
about not just memory, cognition,
and communication, but also identity, self-reliance, and self-worth.
Beyond aiding individuals, the
task is to support a system that
includes people who have challenges along with their family
members, caregivers, and clinicians (see [ 16]).
Although the research projects
we have described assist users
primarily in single tasks (such as
reading or speaking), they can be
situated more holistically. As the
world’s population continues to
age, technology designers will benefit from viewing seniors not simply as users with singular impairments to human-computer interaction, but rather as human beings
with rich and diverse sources of
motivation, pride, and fulfillment.
Creating technologies that allow
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4. Belshaw, M., Taati, B., Snoek, J., and Mihailidis,
A. Towards a single sensor passive solution for
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obtrusive wearable device for continuous interactive cognitive and neuro-logical assessment.
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6. Shim, N., Baecker, R.M., Birnholtz, J., and Moffatt,
K. Table Talk Poker: An online social gaming environment for seniors. Proc. Future Play. 2010, 98-104.
© 2012 ACM 1072-5220/12/05 $10.00