Participatory Design Study: Older Adults & Online Socializing

Older adult avatar customization in Gather.town.

This research project investigates how older adults might use online platforms that support proximity chat (i.e. GatherTown, Kumospace, etc.) for online socializing when face-to-face socializing isn’t possible (because of pandemics, bad weather, mobility restrictions, etc.). This is a participatory design project, where we are supporting older adults in designing their own socialization spaces and events.

Recruitment Script

Investigators: Dr. Celine Latulipe (celine.latulipe@umanitoba.ca) and Aishat Bello (belloa1@myumanitoba.ca)

You are invited to participate in a study on the topic of older adults socializing in online social platforms. The study will take place in Gather.town, an online video conferencing platform that allows you to move an avatar of yourself around in a 2D world and chat with other people (in this study you will just be chatting with a few other older adult participants of the research and the two researchers). The researchers are interested in understanding what types of activities or events older adults would like to participate in or host in online spaces like Gather.Town. The study will be split up into 3 90 minute sessions over the period of three weeks (happening on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning).

The first session introduces participants to the Gather.town platform and involves creating an avatar and playing some games. The second session shows participants how to custom design rooms and spaces in Gather.town – you get to be an online decorator! The third session is about brainstorming ways to use Gather.town for events and activities aimed at older adults to fight social isolation – in this session you get to be a party planner! Participants will complete a pre-study online survey (with the link to the survey sent to your email address) and a post-study online survey at the end of the third session.

Any observational notes or survey responses will be kept confidential, and we will only report aggregate data or anonymized quotes in our research. The only risk associated with participating in this study is that participants may feel confusion or embarrassment in trying to understand how to use Gather.town. The direct benefit of this research is the opportunity to try out and learn about new technologies and socialize with other older adults. The compensation for this study is $30 per session attended with a $10 bonus if all three sessions are attended, for a total potential compensation of $100.

If you are an older adult (age 65+), speak and read English, have an active email address (for session scheduling), and consider yourself to have reasonably good mental health, you are eligible to participate in this study.

This research has has been approved by the University of Manitoba Joint Faculty Research Ethics Board. If you have any concerns or complaints about this project you may contact any of the above-named persons or the Human Ethics Coordinator at 204-474-7122 or humanethics@umanitoba.ca.

To ask questions about this study, please email Dr. Celine Latulipe: celine.latulipe@umanitoba.ca.

Study Dates

This study is a group study and so individual participants must sign up to participate in a specific set of pre-scheduled sessions. There are two options: three sessions during the first week of August or three sessions during the second week of August. Details on exact dates and times are below.

Option 1

Three sessions in the first week of August:

    • Tuesday August 3rd, 10-11:30am,
    • Wednesday August 4th, 10-11:30am, and
    • Thursday August 5th, 10-11:30am

Option 2

Three sessions in the second week of August:

    • Monday August 9th, 9-10:30am,
    • Tuesday August 10th, 9-10:30am, and
    • Wednesday August 11th, 9-10:30am

You can indicate your scheduling preference at the end of the consent form.

Consent Form

You can download a copy of the Consent Form, complete it using Adobe Acrobat Reader, Apple Preview or Microsoft Word, and email it to celine.latulipe@umanitoba.ca. You can also print it, complete it on paper and then take a picture of the last two pages and email those pictures to us. Click one of the links below:

Older Adults – Online Socializing – Consent Form (PDF version)

Older Adults – Online Socializing – Consent Form (MS Word Version)

Final Report

Once the survey closes and analysis is complete, a summary report of the results of this research will be posted here.