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Executive Department for
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Adolf-Reichwein-Straße 2a
Gebäude AVZ (Gebäudeteil AR-NA)
57068 Siegen

Phone:    +49 (0)271/740-4915
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E-Mail:  presse@uni-siegen.de

(Technological-) Learning in the Social Environment

A new international project of the University of Siegen is exploring ways to help older people gain access to digital products.

The new research project "ACCESS" of the University of Siegen deals with innovative ways to increase digital skills of older people. In cooperation with the Institute of Gerontology of the TU Dortmund as well as international partners from Finland, Italy, Austria and Japan, new forms of lifelong learning in the area of technology use are being researched, which are to be embedded in the immediate social environment. At the University of Siegen Junior Professor Dr. Claudia Müller (Faculty III: Economics, Business Informatics and Business Law) is responsible. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total of almost 1.3 million euros until March 2021.

"Digital products can help in old age in many ways, for example, WhatsApp can facilitate social participation and exchange with friends and family members. A pedometer on my watch may help motivate me to take a walk every day, and a voice assistant plays my favorite music when I announce it," explains Prof. Claudia Müller. The scientist emphasizes that there are already many product categories on the market that could be of interest to the elderly: "But many people lack access to the products, there are no spaces to talk about them, to hear what experiences others have made so far. Also: whom can I ask, who can help me without me feeling that I am annoying them?" This is exactly where the research project ACCESS starts. Project staff member Jutta Jung-Henrich explains: "We want to contribute to reducing the barriers that exist between marketable products on the one hand and the interests and needs of older citizens on the other."

The combined expertise of the research partners in the fields of socio-informatics, gerontology, adult education, sociology and eHealth is incorporated into the project, so that learning is viewed from a holistic perspective. The aim of the project is to gain new insight into how technologically inexperienced older people can be reached by creating adequate learning opportunities. This can be done, for example, by creating a mobile demonstration set in which different devices are put together. By means of various counseling and support services, that can serve as multipliers, one can attempt to reach and engage older people. Whether the creation of learning programs can promote the health literacy of older people is also being examined. In addition, findings on the IT use of older adults in their social environment and in local care policies will be examined in Japan, which can be applied to similar social arrangements in Europe.

At the University of Siegen, the working group "IT for the Aging Society" deals specifically with participation-oriented design in the field of human-computer interaction. From a socio-informatics perspective, it is explored how technical innovations can be implemented usefully and sustainably into the environment of older people. Socio-Informatics includes practice-based and participatory approaches. This means that with the involvement and participation of older people and the consideration of their experiences, new technical design ideas are developed that are tailored to the needs of the target group. This will change the attitudes of older people towards technical innovations and new media and reduce fears and aversions.

Emphasis is also placed on the support of technology acquisition through workshops, training, and individual support. The aim of this research is to gain a better understanding of the learning needs of older people, so they can access and sustainably use digital products. In the longer term, the scientists from Siegen want to develop ideas for increasing the learning ease of products as well as for accompanying services. For example, in addition to the home emergency call center, there could be a "technology helper center", which could be used to answer questions about the tablet or mobile phone.

ACCESS is an interdisciplinary international research project under the auspices of the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) “More Years, Better Lives – The Potential and Challenges of Demographic Change”.
The total funding of the European initiative amounts to 1,297,327 euros. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the University of Siegen with 280,980 euros. The project started in April 2018 and runs until March 2021.

From May 23rd to 25th, 2018, the kick-off meeting of the project partners took place in Siegen. In intense discussions, common starting points and questions were defined as the basis for the three-year joint research work.
The detailed research process can be accessed and followed on the international website www.project-access.eu, on Facebook under Project Access EU, and on Twitter @ProjectAccessEU. A German translation of the pages will follow shortly.

Scientists from the University of Siegen with partners from the TU Dortmund, from Finland (University of Joensuu), Italy (INRCA Institute, Ancona) and Austria (University of Vienna). Prof. Claudia Müller (4th from right) and Jutta Jung-Henrich (4th from left) represent the University of Siegen.

Jutta Jung-Henrich
Mail: jutta.jung-henrich@uni-siegen.de