Mediating Asymmetries in Family Communication: Supporting the eInclusion of Older Adults

  • Francisco J. GutierrezEmail author
  • Sergio F. Ochoa
  • Julita Vassileva
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9175)


Background: The rise of mobile Web-based technologies has diversified the mechanisms used by people to socialize, which results in issues in family communication. Among these concerns, the reluctance of older adults to use digital media may cause them social isolation, leading to negative effects in their physical and mental health.

Objective: This paper aims to formalize a model to mediate asymmetries in cross-generational communication and support the eInclusion of older adults.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews to the members of 20 cross-generational families. Following the grounded theory approach, we identified emerging themes regarding asymmetries in family communication practices when older adults are involved. We then derived and formalized computer-based mediation strategies using a model-driven engineering approach.

Results: We identified three main sources of asymmetries: (1) implicit family agreements in terms of social interaction, (2) capability and preferences for using particular media, and (3) unbalanced socio-affective coupling between the involved parties. The proposed model addresses these asymmetries and provides strategies to coordinate the communication effort of family members with their elders.

Conclusions: By using the proposed model, designers of software that supports family communities can conceive effective mechanisms to coordinate and mediate social communication among cross-generational family members through digital means. This allows the elderly to show a better reaction to digital media, thus facilitating their acceptance and appropriation of information technologies.


Family communication Older adults Asymmetry Model Mediation Social and digital inclusion 



This work has been partially supported by the Fondecyt Project (Chile), grant: 1150252. The work of Francisco J. Gutierrez has been supported by the Ph.D. Scholarship Program of Conicyt Chile (CONICYT-PCHA/Doctorado Nacional/2013-21130075).


  1. 1.
    Adams, A., Lunt, P., Cairns, P.: A qualitative approach to HCI research. In: Cairns, P., Cox, A. (eds.) Research Methods for Human-Computer Interaction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2008)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Baecker, R., Sellen, K., Crosskey, S., Boscart, V., Barbosa Neves, B.: Technology to reduce social isolation and loneliness. In: Proceedings of ASSETS 2014, Rochester, USA, pp. 27–34. ACM Press (2014)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bell, C., Fausset, C., Farmer, S., Nguyen, J., Harley, L., Fain, W.B.: Examining social media use among older adults. In: Proceedings of HT 2013, Paris, France, pp. 158–163. ACM Press (2013)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cao, X., Sellen, A., Bernheim Brush, A.J., Kirk, D., Edge, D., Ding, X.: Understanding family communication across time zones. In: Proceedings of CSCW 2010, Savannah, USA, pp. 155–158. ACM Press (2010)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Carmichael, A.: Style Guide for the Design of Interactive Television Services for the Elderly Viewers. Independent Television Commission, Winchester, UK (1999)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cornejo, R., Tentori, M., Favela, J.: Ambient awareness to strengthen the family social network of older adults. Comput. Support. Coop. Work 22, 309–344 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Cornejo, R., Tentori, M., Favela, J.: Enriching in-person encounters through social media: a study on family connectedness for the elderly. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 71(9), 889–899 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Czaja, S.J., Charness, N., Fisk, A.D., Hertzog, C., Nair, S.N., Rogers, W.A., Sharit, J.: Factors predicting the use of technology. Psychol. Aging 21, 333–352 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    The Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse Process Framework Project (EPF). Accessed 29 Dec 2014
  10. 10.
    Garattini, C., Wherton, J., Prendergast, D.: Linking the lonely: an exploration of a communication technology designed to support social interaction among older adults. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 11(2), 211–222 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Giddens, A.: Conversations with Anthony Giddens: Making Sense of Modernity. Stanford University Press, Palo Alto (1998)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hawthorn, D.: Possible implications of aging for interface designers. Interact. Comput. 12, 151–156 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hope, A., Schwaba, T., Piper, A.M.: Understanding digital and material social communications for older adults. In: Proceedings of CHI 2014, Toronto, Canada, pp. 3903–3912. ACM Press (2014)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    House, J.S.: Social isolation kills, but how and why? Psychosom. Med. 63, 273–274 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Judge, T.K., Neustaedter, C., Harrison, S.: Inter-family messaging with domestic media spaces. In: Neustaedter, C., Harrison, S., Sellen, A. (eds.) Connecting Families, pp. 141–157. Springer, London (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lindley, S.E., Harper, R., Sellen, A.: Designing for elders: exploring the complexity of relationships in later life. In: Proceedings of British-HCI 2008, Liverpool, UK, pp. 77–86. British Computer Society (2008)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Lindley, S.E., Harper, R., Sellen, A.: Desiring to be in touch in a changing communications landscape: attitudes of older adults. In: Proceedings of CHI 2009, Boston, USA, pp. 1693–1702. ACM Press (2009)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lindley, S.E.: Shades of lightweight: supporting cross-generational communication through home messaging. Univ. Access Inf. Soc. 11(1), 31–43 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Moser, C., Fuchsberger, V., Neureiter, K., Shellner, W., Tscheligi, M.: Elderly’s social presence supported by ICTs: investigating user requirements for social presence. In: Proceedings of SocialCom 2011, Boston, USA, pp. 738–741. IEEE Press (2011)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Muñoz, D., Cornejo, R., Gutierrez, F.J., Favela, J., Ochoa, S.F., Tentori, M.: A social cloud-based tool to deal with time and media mismatch of intergenerational family communication. Future Gener. Comput. Syst. (2014).
  21. 21.
    Muñoz, D., Gutierrez, F.J., Ochoa, S.F., Baloian, N.: SocialConnector: a ubiquitous system to ease the social interaction among family community members. Int. J. Comput. Syst. Sci. Eng. 30, 57–68 (2014)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Neal, A.G., Collas, S.F.: Intimacy and Alienation: Forms of Estrangement in Female/Male Relationships. Garland Publishing, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Nef, T., Ganea, R.L., Müri, R.M., Mosinmann, U.P.: Social networking sites and older users – a systematic review. Int. Psychogeriatr. 25(7), 1041–1053 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Riche, Y., Mackay, W.: PeerCare: supporting awareness of rhythms and routines for better aging in place. Comput. Support. Coop. Work 19, 73–104 (2010)CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Rodríguez, M.D., Gonzalez, V.M., Favela, J., Santana, P.C.: Home-based communication system for older adults and their remote family. Comput. Hum. Behav. 25(3), 609–618 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Roupa, Z., Nikas, M., Gerasimou, E., Zafeiri, V., Giasyrani, L., Kazitori, E., Sotiropoulou, P.: The use of technology by the elderly. Health Sci. J. 4(2), 118–126 (2010)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Schmidt, D.C.: Model-driven engineering. IEEE Comput. 39(2), 25–31 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Tee, K., Brush, A.J.B., Inkpen, K.M.: Exploring communication and sharing between extended families. Int. J. Hum.-Comput. Stud. 67, 128–138 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Waycott, J., Vetere, F., Pedell, S., Kulik, L., Ozanne, E., Gruner, A., Downs, J.: Older adults ad digital content producers. In: Proceedings of CHI 2013, Paris, France, pp. 39–48. ACM Press (2013)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco J. Gutierrez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sergio F. Ochoa
    • 1
  • Julita Vassileva
    • 2
  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Computer Science DepartmentUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

Personalised recommendations