Storytelling for Older Adults in Online Social Networks with Novel Web Technologies


This thesis describes the research and implementation details of an online storytelling application using novel web technologies, specifically designed for older adults. It integrates into an existing social network, with the goal of making it easier while still fun for older adults to remotely share life stories or general thoughts with family and friends.

The Web already exists for more than two decades. Still, it’s growth has since been continuous, expanding both in adopters and services. The Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the markup language used to create content for the web; recently the fifth version of the specification has been drafted and is already being implemented by most browsers. The term HTML 5, further than referring to this latest version of the specification, is indeed used as an umbrella term for a wider set of web-related specifications. Together, those bring the possibility to create complex applications that run inside any recent browser, taking web development a step further.

With the dissemination of smart phones and tablets, we believe that web technologies might pose as an alternative to native software development, reducing the costs associated to developing and maintaining applications in multiple platforms. Additionally, these devices are usually easier to adopt due to their smaller size, reduced need for configurations and high interactivity, making them ideal for older adults.

Despite the increasing rate of adoption of the Internet, older adults still generally resist to adopt it due to lack of motivation or not understanding how it can be used to improve their well-being, which has been observed by the satisfaction in those that do adopt it. Literature review show us that most people in their later life tend to be exposed to physical isolation or the loss of connections to friends and families for several reasons, such as relocation or mobility impairments. The internet can be an asset in fighting those situations by providing a new channel of communication between them and those who they like on a more frequent basis. We believe that, if provided with the appropriate design and technology, most older adults are able and motivated to create content in online social networks in order to communicate with their loved ones.

This thesis verifies the readiness of HTML 5 for mainstream adoption, while using it to develop a prototype for an online storytelling application for older adults, integrated with an existing online social network. We attempt to facilitate their internet adoption and increase their well-being, by creating a new communication channel to their physically distant loved ones. We conclude that HTML 5 is a viable adoption for cross-platform development, as long as only devices with recent browsers are target. Also, we verify that with the right design and devices, the lack of familiarity between some older adults and technology can be overcome.


Author: Tiago Boldt Sousa

Type: MSc thesis

Work done at: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

Year: 2011