The firekeepers: aging considered as a resource

  • John M. Carroll
  • Gregorio Convertino
  • Umer Farooq
  • Mary Beth Rosson
Long Paper


Technology can improve the quality of life for elderly persons by supporting and facilitating the unique leadership roles that elderly play in groups, communities, and other organizations. Elderly people are often organizational firekeepers. They maintain community memory, pass on organizational practices, and ensure social continuity. This paper reports studies of several essential community roles played by elderly community members—including the role of volunteer community webmaster—and describes two positive design projects that investigated how technology can support new kinds of social endeavors and contributions to society by elderly citizens. Finally, the paper speculates on the utility of intergenerational teams in strengthening society’s workforce.


Aging Elderly Positive design Non-profit community-based groups Intergenerational teams 



This work was supported by a series of grants from the US National Science Foundation (0355212, 0353097, 0353075, 0113264, 0081102, 0080864). Gregorio Convertino is now at the Palo Alto Research Center, 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1314 ( Umer Farooq is now at Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052 ( Yu-Chu Lin, Bonnie J. F. Meyer, and Fengfeng Ke were collaborators and contributors in our study of intergenerational teams.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Carroll
    • 1
  • Gregorio Convertino
    • 1
  • Umer Farooq
    • 1
  • Mary Beth Rosson
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Information Sciences & Technology, Center for Human-Computer InteractionThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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