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  • Older Adults and OATS Computer Training Programs

    A Social Impact Analysis

    Findings Report

    Prepared by:

    Paula J Gardner, PhD

    The New York Academy of Medicine

    Division of Health Policy

    Funding Provided by:

    The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation

    April 2010

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    Table of Contents

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ......................................................................................................................................... 4

    INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................................................... 7

    A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE AGING AND COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY ....................................... 8 USERS AND USE ........................................................................................................................................................................ 9 IMPACT OF USE ....................................................................................................................................................................... 11 TRAINING ................................................................................................................................................................................ 13 A NOTE ON OUTCOMES FROM THE LITERATURE ............................................................................................................. 14

    METHODS AND METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................................... 16 DATA COLLECTION ................................................................................................................................................................ 16 SITE SELECTION ..................................................................................................................................................................... 17 PARTICIPANT RECRUITMENT, ELIGIBILITY AND SCREENING......................................................................................... 17

    STUDY PARTICIPANTS ...................................................................................................................................... 18

    FINDINGS ............................................................................................................................................................... 21 OBJECTIVE 1. TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF THE OATS PROGRAM ON THE COMPUTER SKILLS AND UTILIZATION OF PARTICIPANTS. ................................................................................................................................................................ 21

    Increased confidence: .......................................................................................................................................................... 21 Improved ability: .................................................................................................................................................................... 22 Increased use: .......................................................................................................................................................................... 25 Impact on older adult members as reported by service providers: ................................................................ 26 Changes in overall feeling using the computer: ...................................................................................................... 27 Other findings: ......................................................................................................................................................................... 28

    OBJECTIVE 2. TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF THE OATS PROGRAM ON THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF PARTICIPANTS AS MEASURED BY CHANGES IN: I) SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS, II) ACCESS TO INFORMATION, AND III)

    SOCIAL AND CIVIC PARTICIPATION. ..................................................................................................................................... 31 Social connectedness: .......................................................................................................................................................... 32 Access to information .......................................................................................................................................................... 37 Social and civic participation .......................................................................................................................................... 44

    OBJECTIVE 3. TO EXPLORE THE EFFECTS OF HOSTING OATS TRAINING COURSES ON COMMUNITY PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS. .................................................................................................................................................................... 50

    Impact on the organization itself: ................................................................................................................................. 50 Impact on staff, other members, organization: ....................................................................................................... 52

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    OBJECTIVE 4. TO IDENTIFY THE KEY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THE CURRENT OATS COMPUTER TRAINING PROGRAM .............................................................................................................................................................. 53

    Overall evaluation of OATS by study participants: ................................................................................................ 54 A few participants reported negative experiences and/or feelings: .............................................................. 55 OATS versus other computer training programs: .................................................................................................. 56 Overall evaluation of the OATS program by the service providers: ............................................................... 56 Standing the test of success: ............................................................................................................................................. 58 Key strengths and weaknesses of the OATS program: ......................................................................................... 62 Recommendations and suggestions from participants: ...................................................................................... 64 Recommendations and suggestions from service providers: ............................................................................ 64 OATS getting students turned on for success: ................................................................................................... 66

    OVERALL SUMMARY .......................................................................................................................................... 66

    REFERENCES ......................................................................................................................................................... 68

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    Executive Summary

    There is growing consensus that access to essential services, information, social support

    networks, and meaningful social and civic engagement are increasingly compromised by a lack

    of digital access and literacy. This is a particularly salient issue among older adults as they lag

    behind other age groups in adoption and use of computers and the Internet. Computer training

    programs have been highlighted as a way to increase computer use among older populations.

    Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose

    mission is to, engage, train and support older adults in using technology to improve their

    quality of life and enhance their social and civic engagement. Collaborating with over 30

    partner sites across New York City, OATS has been providing a variety of computer courses to

    older adults since 2004.

    The goal of this study was to explore how participation in the OATS computer-training

    program impacts the lives of older adults. The four objectives of the study were:

    1. To assess the impact of the OATS program on the computer skills and utilization of participants

    2. To assess the impact the OATS program had on the health and well-being of participants as measured by changes in: i) social connectedness, ii) access to information, and iii) social and civic participation

    3. To explore the effects of hosting OATS training courses with community partner organizations

    4. To identify the key strengths and weaknesses of the current OATS computer training program

    A mixed-method research design was adopted and the study took place across four

    study sites in New York City over an eight-month period. Data were collected using three

    strategies telephone surveys, ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with service

    providers. A total of 66 community-dwelling older adults (46 women and 20 men) between the

    ages of 55 and 85 years of age participated in the study. The relationship status among the

    study group was varied, approximately half lived alone, most were white or African American,

    and English was their primary language.

    Findings demonstrate the efficacy of the OATS computer training program across

    various measures including: increased and sustained computer use; improved ability and

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    confidence with computer and Internet technology; a substantial and positive impact on social

    connectedness, access to information, and social and civic participation; and a favora

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