Achieving digital inclusion of older adults through interest-driven curriculums


  • Jeanie Beh Swinburne University of Technology
  • Sonja Pedell Swinburne University of Technology
  • Bruno Mascitelli Swinburne University of Technology



One outcome of increased life expectancy is that older adults are leading active lives in their third age as they seize opportunities to learn new skills, pursue new interests and hobbies to challenge themselves. However, there are many misconceptions about older adults’ capabilities and aspirations, especially their attitudes towards technology. They are often misunderstood and seen to lack interest and motivation in the use of technology. Thus, this article examines interest-driven curriculums in order to achieve digital inclusion for older adults. Investigation methodology into this dilemma was best served with a mixed methods approach because, to date, there has been very little research about how technology could support older adults’ interests. The majority of the existing studies consulted were focused on school children in a classroom setting. Older adults can differ greatly in their general background and level of technical experience and knowledge. Consequently, it would be very difficult to conduct quantitative research with control groups to investigate single variables. In compensation, 131 older adults, five staff members and eight teachers participated in this study. Qualitative methods such as observations and interviews (one-on-one and focus group) provided a deeper insight into teachers’ experiences and teaching. Older adults were not always able to articulate their attitudes and problems with technology and consequently, observations were often a more effective means of data gathering. Finally, an Action Research approach was taken to trialling the concepts developed in the course of the investigation. This research comprised of four studies looked at expanding and extending on The Four-Phase Model of Interest Development by Hidi and Renninger (2006). The results show that when older adults are taught according to requests based on their pre-existing interests, it encourages long-term engagement of technology and ability to integrate technology into their everyday lives, thereby achieving digital inclusion amongst older adults.

Author Biographies

Jeanie Beh, Swinburne University of Technology

Jeanie Beh is Research Assistant: Future Self and Design Living Lab, Centre for Design Innovation.

Sonja Pedell, Swinburne University of Technology

Sonja Pedell is Director: Future Self and Design Living Lab and Associate Professor in the School of Design.

Bruno Mascitelli, Swinburne University of Technology

Bruno Mascitelli is Associate Professor in International Studies: Department of Social Sciences.






Special Issue: Designing Participation for the Digital Fringe