Exploring the Relationship Between Computer Proficiency and Computer Use Over Time in the PRISM Trial
The aim of the PRISM trial was to examine the potential benefits of a Personal Reminder Information and Social Management (PRISM) computer system on the well-being and perceived social support of an older adult sample at risk for social isolation. Participants (N = 300) were randomly assigned to receive the PRISM system, which was designed to support social connections, information gathering, prospective memory, and access to local and national resources, or a binder that contained similar information. The intervention lasted one year, and the computer usage of the PRISM group was monitored. This trial represented a unique opportunity to explore potential barriers to the adoption and continued use of information and communications technologies. Specifically, this paper explored the relationship between computer proficiency and use of the PRISM system over time. Contrary to what one might predict, participants with initially low proficiency used the system more over the course of the trial (r(123) = −.22, p < .05). The fact that even those with the lowest levels or proficiency were able to become among the most active PRISM users may reflect that the system was designed well for older adult computer novices (the intended target of the intervention). Over the course of the trial, participants assigned to the PRISM condition improved substantially in their computer proficiency. Increased computer proficiency from baseline to 12 months was a much strong predictor of system use (r(123) = .53, p < .001), possibly reflecting increased proficiency as a result of greater use over time. Overall, data suggest a complex relationship between computer use, computer proficiency, and changes in computer proficiency over time worthy of additional exploration to further understand the effects of, and barriers to, the use of information and communications technologies.
KeywordsOlder adults Technology Computer proficiency
We gratefully acknowledge support from the National Institute on Aging, NIA 3 PO1 AG017211, Project CREATE III– Center for Research and Education on Aging and Technology Enhancement (www.create-center.org). Data were collected as part of a larger trial examining the benefits of the PRISM system, with a focus on social isolation and social support [ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT0149761]. In support of the PRISM project we also acknowledge and appreciate the assistance of Tracy Mitzner, Chin Chin Lee, and Sankaran Nair.
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