Helping older people access mobile communication technology

Around 100 research degree students are graduating this month, and we caught up with PhD graduate Toan Nguyen, who completed his project in the School of Engineering, to find out about his research.

Toan’s research project on accessible mobile communications for older people actually arose out of working with children with disabilities.

“Seeing kids having trouble accessing communication technology made me wonder if older people experience the same challenges – particularly with the onset of impairments and declining health – and this was the starting point for my research,” he says.

“Through my project I found that older people have difficulty accessing mobile communication technology because of poor design, poor instructions, and lack of training and support. They also struggle with the sheer amount of technology choice, and find it hard to select devices that meet their needs and capabilities.

“In my PhD I developed a training program which I delivered to 18 participants aged 67 to 102 with a 100 per cent success rate. I also developed an online tool to help them select the right technology for their needs and capabilities.

“My research showed that age is not a barrier to learning new skills. Older people can successfully learn new technologies and incorporate them into their everyday lives.”

Toan is now back working with Novita Children’s Services as a Senior Rehabilitation Engineer and Research Officer, where his research skills and expertise on assistive technology and disability have direct professional application.

“Kids and the aged have similar technology needs – both need to access it for safety, independence and communication,” he says.

“The research journey is like a rollercoaster ride, but the process of research is applicable anywhere for tackling and answering complex questions.”


This article was originally published in UniSA's Research Edge, March 2015 - Issue 3.