Designing Technologies with Older Adults: Ethical Tensions and Opportunities

Jenny Waycott, John Vines

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we reflect on our experiences of designing and evaluating new technologies with older adults. We describe encounters from two projects that have prompted us to reconsider our research in two ways. First, we highlight ethical tensions: situations where we have had to adapt our research approach to account for unexpected ethical challenges that emerged in specific situations with older participants. Second, we note how collaborating with older adults brings a wealth of ethical opportunities: older participants often challenge simplistic technological solutions to complex problems and help us question and critique the values and ethics embedded in the technologies we set out to design. We argue that researchers working in this space need flexibility in the way research ethics is approved and managed, and need to be supported in recognising and responding to ethical encounters during the conduct of research. Meanwhile, researchers developing technologies for older users have an ethical imperative to engage older adults in the design and evaluation of new technologies. This, again, requires flexibility: researchers need to be able to thoughtfully respond to emergent issues in order to empower older adults to shape the direction of the research and to critique and iterate proposed designs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgeing and Digital Technology: Designing and Evaluating Emerging Technologies for Older Adults
EditorsBarbara Barbosa Neves, Frank Vetere
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-13-3693-5
ISBN (Print)978-981-13-3692-8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2019


  • Research ethics
  • Collaborative design
  • Older adults
  • Oldest old
  • Fieldwork


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