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