Coast to Coast Seminar Series: "Promoting social Connectedness Among Older Adults (CONNECT)"

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
11:30 - 12:30

Dr. Ron Baecker and Dr. Ben Mortenson
Ron Baecker, Emeritus Bell Chair in Human-Computer Interaction and founder and director of the Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab) at the University of Toronto and Ben Mortenson, University of British Columbia


Social interaction and support are consistently identified as key aspects of older adults’ quality of life. Lack of communication has been shown to lead to isolation/loneliness, which can result in problems such as depression and cognitive decline for older adults. Declining social capacities are linked with declines in physical, cognitive and emotional functions and their associated implications for disease, dependence, and poorer life quality. Researchers have begun to show that social interaction technologies offer both cognitive stimulation and social connection. The limits of current research and commercial products provide a compelling argument to find a way to reach seniors by increasing their social connectedness, reducing their isolation, loneliness and depression and improving their cognitive functioning and overall health. In this presentation, we will outline three areas in which new communication technologies and associated activities can promote social connectedness among older adults. These consist of (1) new communication tools - InTouch, Second Life, Facebook; (2) collaborating and playing - digital social games, collaborative webquests; and (3) knowledge building and sharing - digital storytelling (life histories; family histories), collaborative online information seeking, reading and writing. We also will provide several examples of research to be conducted around these areas.

About the Speaker

Dr. Baecker is Director of the Technologies for Aging Gracefully Laboratory (TAGlab), Professor of Computer Science, and emeritus Bell Universities Laboratories Chair in Human-Computer Interaction. He is also Affiliate Scientist with the Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit of Baycret, Adjunct Scientist with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and founder of both the Dynamic Graphics Project and the Knowledge Media Design Institute at the University of Toronto. He has been named one of the 60 Pioneers of Computer Graphics by ACM SIGGRAPH, has been elected to the CHI (Computers and Human Interaction) Academy by ACM SIGCHI, has been given the Canadian Human Computer Communications Society Achievement Award, has been elected an ACM Fellow, and has been given the GRAND NCE Canadian Digital Media Pioneer Award. His B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. are from M.I.T. Professor Baecker is an active researcher, lecturer, and consultant on human-computer interaction and user interface design, digital media, computer-supported cooperative work and learning, the Internet, entrepreneurship and strategic planning in the software industry, assistive technology, and technology for seniors. He has published over 300 papers and articles and four books on topics in these areas.

Dr. Ben Mortenson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, UBC. Dr. Mortenson's research focuses on four overlapping areas: assistive technology, social participation, caregiving and outcome measurement. His work is centered on four main populations: assistive technology users, informal and formal caregivers, individuals with spinal cord injury and residents in long-term care. Dr. Mortenson is currently an instructor with the UBC Master of Occupational Therapy Program. Dr. Mortenson is a member of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, the Canadian Society of Occupational Scientists, and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.