Involving Older People in Participatory Action Research: An Example of Participatory Action Design
Participatory Action Research (PAR) has as a main goal the collaborative construction and production of meanings between the researchers and the participants. PAR has been largely used in the area of technology creation and appropriation involving end-users in different stages of technology designing process. However, research studies concerning older people and their use of technology employ PAR to a lesser extent. In the current paper we provide arguments for the value of different participative action approaches when studying technology appropriation by older people, and present an example of a participatory action design that we have implemented in three Romanian cities, with people 60+, to reveal the way older adults depict their experience in using Facebook. We used a five-step collaborative research design – (1) initial evaluation; (2) training session; (3) immediate evaluation; (4) group co-creation; (5) final evaluation – to reflect on the participants’ experience through groups techniques and participant observation notes. Results reveal the fact that one trainer per each participant, adapting the interaction to the participant’s individual needs, intergenerational trainer-trainee communication and patience, as well as proper timing of the organized sessions are key factors to foster participant engagement with social media. In addition, the proposed participatory action design proved to have some potential to empower older people in long time engagement with social media.
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