Population ageing is becoming more of a reality as time goes by. The percentage of seniors in the overall population is growing each year and it is only believed to grow even more in the next years. Associated with ageing are several age-related changes that can affect seniors both physically as well as cognitively which, if ignored, can impose serious threats in their quality of life and self-esteem.
Digital games are believed to hold the potential to stimulate the brain and help reduce and even stop the natural decline of cognitive abilities. However, the way that technology is designed and implemented does not favours the needs and goals of the senior population. As such, their receptivity towards computers and consequently digital games is very low, as they have difficulties understanding the benefits that such systems can bring. However, in the last few years, new types of devices possessing more intuitive ways of interaction such as tablets and smartphones have emerged, which can be a new opportunity to change the way seniors perceive technology.
The primary goal of this project is to design, develop and evaluate a tablet-based gaming platform with its target audience being the senior population. The games provided by the gaming platform have the objective of stimulating various areas of the cognitive domain in order to help maintain, or even increase, the mental capabilities of the senior players contributing to an improved overall well-being. In addition, the game platform also aims at promoting social interaction between seniors by means of group play activities and game results sharing using a ranking mechanism. To achieve these goals, we start by performing a study of the specific characteristics of the senior user as well as what makes a game appealing to the player, and why the tablet proves to be an advantageous device to our target audience.
With the results of our research we develop a solution that incorporates cognitive and social mechanisms into its games, while performing iterative evaluations together with the final user by adopting a user-centered design methodology. In each design phase a pre-selected group of senior participants experiments with the game platform and provides feedback to improve its features and usability. Through a series of short-term and long-term evaluations the game platform proves to be appealing to its intended users providing good usability and an enjoyable gaming experience.
Author: João Marques
Type: MSc thesis
Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto