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3rd September, 2002

Full day workshop (W3), 9:30 - 5:00 at

BCS HCI 2002, London


Stephen Brewster and Mary Zajicek

The workshop has now taken place and was very successful. We had around 30 attendees from academia, industry and charities. We will be carrying on work in this area and this page will be updated accordingly.


The aim of this workshop is to discuss a research agenda to look at how computing, communications and information technology might be useful for older adults. This is a very important and timely area to discuss because the population of the UK and Western Europe is ageing, but most HCI research has not focused on this important group. We will bring together researchers interested in the area to discuss the topic and to set a research agenda to address the issues identified.

List of accepted papers (and download accepted papers)

Timetable for the workshop


The substantial opportunities presented to the IT industry by the ageing population of the developed world have been identified by the Foresight Programme. Older people currently control a large pro-portion of the wealth of the county, and many have a substantial disposable income. In the future, the proportion of older people in the population will significantly increase. These people will remain economically active longer, but also there will be a significant increase in the numbers needing long term care. There is no evidence that older people are particularly averse to using new technologies, and there are market opportunities, and an economic imperative for the advantages of communication and information technologies to be extended to support this group.

The numbers of people over the age of 65 in the UK are predicted to increase from 9.25 million in 1996 to 12 million in 2021. Life expectancy is projected to increase from 74.3 years to 77.9 years for men and 79.5 years to 82.6 years for women in that period, and to 79 years and 84 years respectively by the middle of the century. The number of people aged over 75 will have doubled and the number over 90 will have more than tripled. Census data from the USA shows that the chances of having a disability increases with age, and more than half those who are 65 or over have a disability (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995). In 1995, people over 65 accounted for 12% of the US population , but 34% of those with disabilities and 43% of those with severe disabilities. These figures will be reflected in the United Kingdom.

Currently the advance of engineering, communications, and information technology offers very little support to elderly people. There is no evidence that elderly people are particularly technophobic, and properly designed technology, the quality of life of older people will be at risk, and society is unlikely to be able to provide the level of support to numbers of elderly people predicted by demographic trends. In the UK, a Royal Commission estimated that the cost of long-term formal care for older people (paid for by both individuals and the state) could rise from £11.1bn (1.6% of GDP) in 1995 to £45.3 billion in 2051 (1.9% of GDP). The Royal Commission also noted that technology could provide some solutions to the problems of providing care for older people. Our aim is to work out how this should be done.

The workshop

Our goal is to promote discussion of the issues around designing computer systems for elderly people within the HCI community. There is currently no forum for all of the researchers and industrialists interested in this issue within the UK/EU to meet and discuss ideas. This workshop will fill this gap. If it is successful, we hope to use it to form a continuing workshop series. Here is the timetable for the workshop.

Some of the main questions we hope to address are:

  • Which age-associated impairments affect computer use, i.e. what makes older adults different as users?
  • Is social inclusion through technology use relevant or desirable?
  • How do lifestyle and social issues factor in?
  • How do we model this user group, or set of groups?
  • Do we need a new system design paradigm?
  • Which interfaces/applications work for older adults and are there unifying strands?
  • Can we come up with design guidelines for older adults?
  • Can we set out a research agenda for older adults and technology use?
  • Is designing for elderly people different to universal design?

We are interested in discussing a range of applications: mobile devices, making the Web accessible, smart homes to support elderly people staying at home longer, games, etc.

Here is the current attendees list for the workshop (as a PDF file). We are now over 25 people.


We have accepted 18 submissions for the workshop, some will be presented as papers and some as demos. Here is the full list of accepted papers to download.


You can take part in the workshop only or also register for the full BCS HCI conference. The cost for the workshop is £50. For more information on registration and accommodation see the BCS HCI 2002 conference site. Here are the registration details from the conference organisers:

8:30 AM Registration desk opens.
Participants (and organisers too) should go here FIRST, then go to their workshops. This is to find out which room has been allocated for their workshop; also, to pick up their workshop ticket (and pay if they haven't already done that). The conference joining instructions tell you where registration will be: (basically: the Abbey Conference centre in the London Road building).


Stephen Brewster
Department of Computing Science,
University of Glasgow,
Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

phone: +44 (0)141 330 4966
fax: +44 (0)141 330 4913

Mary Zajicek
School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
Oxford Brookes University
Wheatley Campus, Oxford, OX33 1HX, UK

phone: +44 (0) 1865 484579
fax: +44 (0) 1865 484545


Utopia project

UTOPIA is a SHEFC funded Scottish research project investigating the design and development of computer-based technology for older people. It is formed from a partnership of research groups at four universities (Dundee, Glasgow, Abertay and Napier). The UTOPIA project will raise awareness of the opportunities for Scotland in the global market of design for older people by

  • encouraging researchers to consider older people
  • developing partnerships to promote awareness with industry
  • becoming a knowledge resource for academics and industry in Scotland

Older Adults and the Web at Oxford Brookes University

The team at the Speech Project, Oxford Brookes University have developed voice help for BrookesTalk the voice Web browser, for older users with memory loss, which tells the user where they are now and what they can do next. We are currently working to develop a low functionality Web browser for older adults, which reduces the need for long and confusing output messages.
We have carried out several experiments to help us come up with optimum design, which are described in our more recent publications at

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