Sus-IT: Sustaining IT use by older people to promote autonomy and independence

Sus-IT is a research project funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) initiative, the largest research programme on ageing ever mounted in the UK. Research under the New Dynamics of Ageing programme will impact on policy decisions and scientific, technology and design choices that will make sure that older people will enjoy better quality lives.
Here you can find out more about what our research involves, read our publications and find out how you can participate in our research.

The Sus-IT research project is:   

  • understanding the challenges faced by older people using computers;
  • identifying ways to help older people to be confident and competent users of computers and other digital products; and
  • exploring how older people can be helped to keep using computers and other digital products if their capabilities and circumstances change.

What older people say about computers

There are many ways in which new digital technologies such as computers and the internet can improve the quality of life for older people, and help them to stay independent.  Growing numbers of older people are enthusiastically learning and using these technologies. This is what some of them have told us:

"I send emails daily to my daughter. It's great, there's an immediate response!"
"I'm familiar with the computer. You can do so much with it."

But many others experience difficulties with technology:

"I'm always afraid of pressing the wrong button and messing it up."
"My computer is in cobwebs."
"I give up... I haven't got the confidence."

The Sus-IT research project will investigate the barriers and problems that lead to these difficulties, and will identify solutions to help 'silver surfers' to keep surfing for as long as possible!

Project aims and objectives

The project has generated new knowledge and understanding regarding the dynamics of ageing in relation to the dynamics of ICT use and development (see the project overview briefing paper for more details). The actual and potential barriers to sustained and effective use of ICTs by older people have been investigated and a range of potential sociotechnical solutions to these barriers explored. The project has produced the following outputs:

  • A conceptual model of the risks to sustaining digital engagement for older people (see Briefing Paper 1 for more details);
  • An innovative suite of tools, methods and guidance for working collaboratively, participatively and ethically with older people in research and in the design and development of ICT-based products and services (see Briefing Paper 2 and Briefing Paper 3 for more details);
  • An 'adaptivity framework' which has been applied to develop prototype software that helps to address problems encountered by people experiencing age-related changes in vision, dexterity and memory (see Briefing Paper 4 for more details);
  • A design catalogue of 40 product concepts aimed at the ICT industry to stimulate new product development for the older market (see Briefing Paper 4 for more details);
  • A user-generated strategy for provision of sustainable, community-based ICT learning and support for older people and a blueprint for design and implementation of such centres, with exemplars (see Briefing Paper 5 for more details).
  • Over 50 publications have been produced by the project team which document these outputs (see the publications list for more details).