The following section provides detailed information on the methodology of TEC and how it was implemented in five sites in four different countries across Europe, focusing on \( (i) \) participating stakeholders, \( (ii) \) the general design of the TEC, \( (iii) \) the used evaluation tools, across all five TECs within the SIforAGE project, respectively.
3.1 Participating Stakeholders
TECs allows for a dialogue between older adults and various stakeholders on a wide range of issues related to science and technology. In addition to older adults themselves, this includes R&D stakeholders, representatives of a broader public participants—such as family members and societal institutions—public health and care services, NGOs or associations of older people, and also enterprises—such as manufacturers, providers, insurers, distribution or marketing companies. The concrete set of stakeholders varied across all five venues, see Table 1. This is due to the fact that each TEC’s effectiveness, in terms of objectives, hinges on the presence of the appropriate set of stakeholders. Particular TEC objectives can be related to presented technologies’ particular stage within the innovation cycle, as well as scientific and/or economic goals of participating stakeholders. The following section contains an overview of the involved stakeholders’ profiles.
Direct Users. They were approached according to a definition of the target audience: Senior citizens, age 55/60/65 or older, with no or minor health-related limitations, allowing active and independent participation in the TEC activities. The Danish TEC had a broader target audience including persons with mild health-related limitations requiring support of their caregivers.
Indirect Users. Entities benefiting from data provided or actions stimulated by the technology during its usage by the direct user; whose activity consists in helping the direct users in their daily life, partially or totally, within a professional or voluntary activity, such as helpers, relatives, caregivers or practitioners. This also includes persons who coordinate and/or fund activities of care and home services, such as local, regional or national authorities, caregiving companies, NGOs, insurers, banks, or charities.
Technology Representatives. These are: scientists presenting new technologies in the context of scenarios and collecting opinions aiming at directing scientific endeavours, technology developers presenting prototypic solutions and collecting feedback within the UCD development cycle, providers, manufacturers, and marketing agents presenting early-on-the-market products and collecting feedback for designing marketing strategies, and middle-man entities organising TECs on behalf of the above mentioned groups of technology representatives, compare also the paragraph on Technology Experience Stations.
3.2 TEC Design
Similar to the involved set of stakeholders, each TEC’s design depends on the objectives and the available resources and facilities. Across all five TECs, typical elements included: \( (ii.a) \) plenaries, \( (ii.b) \) technology experience stations, \( (ii.c) \) experience schemes, \( (ii.d) \) social spaces—cafés and \( (ii.e) \) supporting services. Beyond that, the TEC events differed in the way these key elements were organised; overall some events were organised on two succeeding days and some were held in one day, compare Table 1 and (Fig. 1).
Plenaries. These were held as general meetings, briefing participants on the event, expected outcomes and organisation. Plenaries may include introductory presentations and also other stakeholders’ presentations. They are typically held at the beginning—briefing—and at the end—debriefing—of the event.
Technology Experience Stations. One of the main goals of TECs is to provide users with the opportunity to interact with a particular technology, preferably to try it in a realistic scenario and, with the support of qualified personnel to receive explanations and consultations. Within SIforAGE, all TECs contained more than one technology, providing several stations; time allocated to each station depends on the nature of the technology and the scenario. In general, the pace of acquainting with any new technology has to be taken into consideration. According to the afore-mentioned adaptation for older adults’ individual characteristics, software and hardware adaptations were used during the TECs to accommodate potential age-related declines in perceptual, cognitive, and motor abilities, see Sect. 2.
The following technologies could be experienced at the five sites: Denmark, Frederiksberg—DukaBOX, InCare, Brain+ & Who am I?; Denmark, Glostrup—El-pris tavlen & E-box; France, Troyes—ARPEGE, Mobile application evaluation, EELEO, Robot, Social TV; Germany, Saarbrücken—Smartphone In-Door Navigation, Intelligent Speaking Kitchen; Italy, Torino—Torino Facile.
Experience Schemes. Ranging from group-experimentation to assisted single person experimentation, different schemes were implemented. Again, the decision upon the experience scheme depends on the technology experience stations and their tasks, the outcome, feedback the technology representatives opt for, as well as the direct users’ abilities and profiles. In the Danish and French TECs, the direct users followed an individual schedule to experience all demonstrated technologies in an Individual Experience set-up together with the respective technology representative. In the Danish TEC in Frederiksberg, the direct users’ profile required additional assistance whereby helpers facilitated the technology experience towards an Individual Assisted Experience; one helper accompanied one direct user during all technology experience stations. In the German TEC, direct users where split into three groups which allowed for a revolving Group Experience Scheme. In this scheme, they stayed within one group and rotated from one technology experience station to the next thereby jointly reflecting on the technologies. The group also spent the break—the café—together. As in the Torino TEC, direct users experienced only one technology, the experience scheme was changed towards a Blended Experience. Hereby the TEC workshop atmosphere was blended with the direct users’ personal life. In the two-day TEC, direct users were given the opportunity to sign up for a platform, self test it in the scaffolded venue environment, receive demonstrations of the systems’ capabilities and ask questions. Most importantly, at the end of the first day, there were given a technology-specific task as homework. This private experience with the technology was then discussed in the subsequent session and enriched with dedicated exercises. This blended experience scheme has also proven to be very powerful in mobisaar, a German active healthy ageing project; therefore, this scheme helps to accompany and keep a fixed user base in lasting operational tests of technology demonstrators with Technology Readiness Level (TRL)Footnote 4 of six or higher [1, 15].
Cafés. This constitutes the social aspect in SIforAGE and represents one of the most important features of TECs, being a social place where people meet technology and technology meets people in a casual way. Above all, the café allows people to meet people; by mentioning people, representatives of all discussed stakeholder groups are comprised. To facilitate this social aspect, nice environments, small food, soft drinks, and non-technical entertainment was and should be foreseen. Cafés also serve a far more practical goal which was especially relevant for the direct users in SIforAGE: Even healthy older adults get tired and distracted faster than younger users which can lead to loss of motivation, as well as biased or even unusable evaluation results. Within this line of thoughts, the café also represents a technology-distant space were users can reflect on their technology experiences amongst themselves or moderated by skilled facilitators; this transforms the café into an additional valuable source for feedback and a tool in the UCD process. Building upon its beneficial effect on older adults’ performance, the French TEC provided crosswords in the café section to activate positive stereotypes .
Supporting Services. Overarching the technology stations, the experience schemes and the café, all TECs provided comprehensive support to all participants on any issue throughout the event. This was organised in the form of a help desk and local supporters at the TEC venue, ensuring that no older participant was left unattended at both the technology stations and inbetween the session, including also the evaluation.
3.3 Evaluation Tools
All TECs comprised two main phases of evaluation: \( (iii.a) \) the evaluation of the technology during or immediately after experience at the stations and \( (iii.b) \) the framing evaluation; the French TEC even featured a framing pre-post-test evaluation design. The evaluation of the technology during experience is highly dependent on the technology itself and the goal of its representatives, considering also the respective TRL. Therefore, multiple technology representatives used tailored surveys for their technologies. Conversely, the framing assessment was independent from the technologies and standardised across all five TECs. These dedicated surveys covered the following dimensions: \( (iii.b.1) \) perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, \( (iii.b.2) \) stereotypes of the elderly in combination with technology, \( (iii.b.3) \) demographic information, \( (iii.b.4) \) previous experience with technology, \( (iii.b.5) \) feedback on the TEC and demographic profiles. Given their conceptual complexity, the first two dimensions stated are shortly introduced.
Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). Introduced in 1986  its basic assumption is: An individual’s behaviour intention to use a system is determined by perceived usefulness, defined as the extent to which a person believes that using the system will enhance their performance, and perceived ease of use, defined as the extent to which a person believes that using the system will be free of effort. TAM-2 marks an extension in terms of social influence and cognitive processes  and also comes in a modified version evaluating the acceptance and characteristics of technology for older users, which was used within the SIforAGE TECs .
Stereotypic Perceptions. This is commonly identified as one of the main barriers to technology use by older adults. Critically, the associated societal phenomenon of Ageism
Footnote 5 has shown to be internalised by older adults themselves . This effect turns into a barrier when it comes to technology, as the elderly might be convinced that they are too old to learn using computers even before attempting to do so . In order to measure the impact of ageing stereotypes, items measuring stereotype threat, stigma consciousness, stereotype content, in general and specifically related with the use of technology by older people, were included in the questionnaire.
Each TEC contained an upfront available Informed Consent (IC) ensuring ethical issues handling in-line with the EU legislations on private data handling. Each IC contained the event’s objectives, activities and procedures users will be involved in, the intended use of the results, the arrangements concerning audio/video recording and other issues according to national regulations or practices.