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Methodological Issues in the Assessment of Technology Use for Older Adults

Christopher Hertzog and Leah Light

Principles of social research are abstractions that are made concrete and manifest through the decisions made by researchers. The research tools we use must be flexibly adapted to the complex problem of understanding how our population is embedded in and responds to a rapidly changing historical context. No context is more complex, it seems, than the flux and rapid progression that is technology use in modern Western societies. The start of the twenty-first century has been characterized by mind-numbing changes in the way in which we engage the world, from the advent of the microcomputer through development of mobile communications technology. Yet the evolution of technology is merely one aspect of the problem. Historical trends in technology encompass individuals who are more or less knowledgeable, more or less skilled, and more or less avoidant of learning how to engage technological innovation. Individual differences in existing knowledge and skill provide a background that strongly influences adaptation to new technologies (Czaja, Sharit, Charness, Fisk, and Rogers, 2003). Moreover, the normative and non-normative changes that accompany aging create a situation in which individuals with changing physical, social, and cognitive resources (the “gains and losses” associated with adult development) (Baltes, 1993) must adapt to new technologies while simultaneously adjusting to and compensating for various negative effects of aging so as to achieve “successful aging” (Rowe and Kahn, 1987).

Understanding the impact of technology on older adults thus requires empirical approaches that can gauge changes on numerous dimensions,



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Technology for Adaptive Aging 4 Methodological Issues in the Assessment of Technology Use for Older Adults Christopher Hertzog and Leah Light Principles of social research are abstractions that are made concrete and manifest through the decisions made by researchers. The research tools we use must be flexibly adapted to the complex problem of understanding how our population is embedded in and responds to a rapidly changing historical context. No context is more complex, it seems, than the flux and rapid progression that is technology use in modern Western societies. The start of the twenty-first century has been characterized by mind-numbing changes in the way in which we engage the world, from the advent of the microcomputer through development of mobile communications technology. Yet the evolution of technology is merely one aspect of the problem. Historical trends in technology encompass individuals who are more or less knowledgeable, more or less skilled, and more or less avoidant of learning how to engage technological innovation. Individual differences in existing knowledge and skill provide a background that strongly influences adaptation to new technologies (Czaja, Sharit, Charness, Fisk, and Rogers, 2003). Moreover, the normative and non-normative changes that accompany aging create a situation in which individuals with changing physical, social, and cognitive resources (the “gains and losses” associated with adult development) (Baltes, 1993) must adapt to new technologies while simultaneously adjusting to and compensating for various negative effects of aging so as to achieve “successful aging” (Rowe and Kahn, 1987). Understanding the impact of technology on older adults thus requires empirical approaches that can gauge changes on numerous dimensions,

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Technology for Adaptive Aging including physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and social psychological outcomes. Given the law of unintended consequences, not all effects of the introduction of new technologies are likely to be planned or even anticipated when the technology is designed. Furthermore, research on human factors and aging strongly indicates that technology designers often do not consider the information processing limitations of humans, let alone their existing behavioral repertoire of skills, their attitudes, and their preferences regarding how to achieve goals (Czaja, 2001). Thus, there is a critical need for effective and reliable methods for judging the efficacy of technological interventions for improving the functioning of older persons, for assisting them in performing tasks necessary for everyday living, for enhancing their capacity to engage in desired behaviors, and for generally improving their quality of life. Fortunately, the means for accomplishing these tasks are, by and large, available. Social scientists have engaged the generic problem of effective methods for program evaluation in a variety of domains, including education and clinical psychology (e.g., Zigler and Styfco, 2001). The pioneering efforts of scientists such as Donald T. Campbell (Bickman, 2000; Campbell and Stanley, 1966; Cook and Campbell, 1979) in the latter half of the twentieth century have produced well-established principles for conducting experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of social trends and interventions that are intended to modify them (e.g., Berk and Rossi, 1999; Boruch, 1997; Shadish, Cook, and Leviton, 1995). The seminal study by Campbell and Stanley (1966) also had a strong influence on thinking about how to approach problems of research on aging (Nesselroade and Labouvie, 1985; Schaie, 1977). The dominant approach has been to emphasize quantitative methods for evaluating program impact, but there has also been renewed attention to and appreciation of the benefits of qualitative approaches for certain questions and problems (e.g., Patton, 2001). A hallmark of modern approaches to program evaluation is an appreciation of the critical role that measurement quality plays in generating valid research conclusions (e.g., Campbell and Russo, 2001). Arguably, selection or development of sensitive and valid measurement techniques is the most important aspect of successful evaluation research. Finally, our sampling methods (for example, ones that achieve representativeness to a target population) have evolved considerably over the past 50 years and are widely employed in sociology, demography, and other disciplines (for an introduction, see Babbie, 2003). These issues are of course highly relevant to research on aging (Alwin and Campbell, 2001; Lawton and Herzog, 1989). Generally speaking, research design can be viewed as a process of making compromises regarding what and when one measures so as to

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Technology for Adaptive Aging answer a research question (Cronbach, 1986; Hertzog and Dixon, 1996; Nesselroade, 1988). Design is the art of compromise because not all variables can be measured easily, and not all confounding variables can be directly controlled to rule out competing interpretations of the data. The practical realities of research necessitate exchanging the optimal for the feasible. Our belief is that theory-guided research is to be preferred when possible (Mead, Batsakes, Fisk, and Mykityshyn, 1999), but theory-guided evaluation may not always be possible or even desirable (e.g., Creswell, 1994). Nonetheless, explicit statements of the research questions, and explorations of what one is and is not attempting to accomplish, are critical first steps if we are to make valid decisions about design issues. Our goal in this chapter is not to provide a compendium of “dos” and don′ts” or a series of checklists for translational research, but rather to provide a vade mecum, or tour guide, for those embarking on such endeavors. We do not treat important practical issues associated with designing and implementing research in field settings (but see Ball, Wadley, and Roenker, 2003); instead we focus on an illustration of principles of research design that are generically relevant to applied research. We hope that consideration of issues involved in the assessment of the impact of technologies on the lives of older adults will help researchers to make thoughtful design decisions that maximize the usefulness of the evaluations they undertake. We begin our discussion with an overview of some issues that apply quite universally to the design of studies to evaluate the impact of technological interventions on adaptive functioning in older adults. We then review in more detail some fundamental measurement issues as well as basic features of experimental and quasi-experimental intervention designs, ending with a short discussion of the social significance of research outcomes. BASIC ISSUES IN EVALUATING TECHNOLOGICAL INTERVENTIONS What Are the Research Questions? It is important for social scientists to appreciate that the nature of the research question is often different in evaluation research than in research focused on identifying basic mechanisms. Experimental psychologists (like ourselves) are oriented toward isolating causal mechanisms through achieving experimental control over independent variables. The research questions they ask are about structure, mechanism, and process. Evaluation research often dictates a different kind of research question concerning the functional impact of existing or new conditions on the broader population (or specific subpopulations). Consider, for example, the dis-

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Technology for Adaptive Aging parity between research questions focusing on understanding age changes in perception and the potential impact of such changes on cognitive performance. An experimental psychologist might ask whether age-related impairments in perception have a detrimental impact on comprehending presented information. Designing research on this topic might focus on manipulating stimulus parameters (e.g., background noise, illumination, glare) to determine the conditions in which perceptual deficits do or do not impact comprehension (e.g., Schneider and Pichora-Fuller, 2000; Wingfield and Stine-Morrow, 2000). The research question might dictate describing the relationship between manipulated perceptual deficit and comprehension outcomes. A practical outcome for comprehension researchers might be guidelines for stimulus characteristics in experiments that eliminate or at least minimize the influence of perceptual limitations on comprehension task performance. A researcher interested in the functional impact of perceptual limitations in typical environments would, in contrast, not want to remove the influences of perceptual limitations, except as the target of an intervention design. Instead, that researcher would first design a study that focused on observing or simulating conditions that constrain perception in common everyday environments and ask questions such as, “What proportion of the population is adversely affected by these kinds of conditions? What is the nature of the functional impact? What can be done to mitigate this functional impact?” Gerontologists have long recognized that phenomena identified in the laboratory do not necessarily translate directly into improved lives for older adults (Birren, 1974; Czaja and Sharit, 2003; Schonfeld, 1974), although well-designed simulations of everyday tasks in the laboratory may well predict actual performance (e.g., Angell, Young, Hankey, and Dingus, 2002). Translating laboratory research into statements about functional impact on everyday life requires an understanding of the similarity and differences between the laboratory setting and the ecological setting, accounting for the vagaries of human behavior. People develop practical knowledge about how to achieve goals in everyday life that is difficult to “control” in the laboratory. In everyday life, for example, adults can change the requirements of a task by adjusting their strategic approach to the task. Remembering to take medications on schedule requires effective memory processes, unless the adult who is memory impaired obtains assistance from a care provider, family, or friends. Remembering to take medications may be as much a function of social support as it is an ecological test of intact memory functioning (see Park and Kidder, 1996). Ultimately, understanding the functional impact of technology requires both an understanding of underlying mechanisms and an understanding of normal environmental contexts (e.g., ranges of variation in perceptual conditions, characteristics of persons in the populations) that affect this impact.

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Technology for Adaptive Aging Such an assessment is likely to involve simultaneous consideration of many design features and outcome variables. For example, the ultimate standards for usability of a hearing aid for older adults are (a) whether it improves auditory discrimination in all or most of the contexts in which adults who are hearing impaired find themselves (rather than just in the tightly controlled conditions of an audiometric examination), (b) whether it improves not only hearing but also more-complex behaviors that rely on hearing (e.g., social interaction), (c) whether it has been designed to take into account problems in small motor control that might make fine adjustments of its settings difficult for the user, and (d) whether it is unobtrusive enough to permit use without stigmatization (Kemper and Lacal, this volume; Pichora-Fuller and Carson, 2001). What Are the Populations (or Subpopulations) of Interest? Any intervention or evaluation study must consider carefully the issue of the target groups of interest for the intervention. Research design needs to carefully consider rival explanations for observed outcomes—often referred to as internal validity threats (Berk and Rossi, 1999; Campbell and Stanley, 1966; Schaie, 1988)—so as to ensure a valid assessment of intervention effects, controlling for potentially confounded variables that could mimic the pattern of expected treatment benefits. Arguably, however, just as much attention needs to be given to matters of external validity—that is, designing studies with an eye to generalizing results of a specific study to different target populations, settings, and time periods (Cook and Campbell, 1979; Hultsch and Hickey, 1978). This is especially the case in technological interventions, which are often designed for compensatory or prosthetic support. Full understanding of the range of attributes in the target group to receive an intervention is critical to ensure that individuals have sufficient cognitive ability or comprehension skills to understand directions or training regimens. Furthermore, careful preliminary research on need and potential benefit may be critical for tailoring the intervention itself. Older populations are a special case in point. They are characterized by heterogeneity, relative to younger populations (e.g., Nelson and Dannefer, 1992; Hultsch, Hertzog, Dixon, and Small, 1998). Some older adults function at extraordinarily high levels. Others are afflicted with physical and psychological burdens, including chronic diseases such as arthritis, frailty, or depression. Many lack the economic resources to be able to take full advantage of technological innovations that carry some financial costs for implementation and maintenance. Some products or assistive technologies are designed explicitly for use by people who have disabilities or specific medical conditions. For

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Technology for Adaptive Aging example, assistive listening devices are intended for people who have hearing difficulties, and blood glucose monitors are intended for people who have diabetes. However, everyone in our society, including those with functional limitations, needs to access a wide spectrum of technologies during the course of the day, at home, at work, and while carrying out the usual round of daily activities in the community. Most technological devices are designed for those in the 20-50-year age range (Kroemer, 1997). In considering the aging population, however, it is necessary to take into account the fact that aging, and a number of pathological conditions encountered with greater frequency during aging, lead to manifestations of a range of problems. Conditions that affect technology use may be associated with chronological age in a linear or in a quadratic fashion and will vary in severity and incidence, making it difficult to determine “the average person” who is the potential technology user. Vanderheiden (1997) suggests that many designers aim for usability by the upper 95 percent of the population. However, that 95 percent figure applies to each dimension that may lead to limitations in usability—e.g., poor vision, poor hearing, arthritis, learning disabilities. Although many such limitations are independent of each other, a given individual, especially an older individual, may have several. Taking a simple case in which the probabilities of each disability are independent and constant in magnitude, say 10 percent, if a product requires that a person lie in the upper 90 percent of each distribution, the percentage of individuals who can actually use the product will be much less than 90 percent. Also, because relationships between individual abilities and performance may be nonlinear, there may be threshold effects in which a minimum level of memory, or reasoning, or physical mobility may be required. For example, those who score below a minimum level of performance may be unable to benefit from audiological rehabilitation programs in which complex new skills must be acquired (Pichora-Fuller and Carson, 2001). Some products or devices may be relatively costly and not subsidized by medical insurance—e.g., computers. It is critical, then, that any intervention study consider carefully the targeted recipients, their likelihood to benefit from the intervention, and any unanticipated costs or burdens that may be imposed by the intervention. Attention to the issue of subpopulation selection also has critical importance for thinking about the nature of the intervention design. Often, interventions are cast in the traditional experimental framework and rely on analysis of variance approaches to identify average treatment benefit. Under these circumstances, individual differences are treated only as error variance. However, research in several domains, including human abilities, cognitive aging, and educational psychology, points to the fact that treatments or interventions may be differentially effective for indi-

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Technology for Adaptive Aging viduals varying along some dimension (in analysis of variance terms, these are person by treatment interactions) (Baltes, Reese, and Nesselroade, 1988; Cook and Campbell, 1979; Cronbach and Snow, 1977). Individuals differ in terms of the background skills, knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors that are relevant to shaping intervention effectiveness. For example, health beliefs play a great role in determining whether older adults will comply with physician instructions (Leventhal, Rabin, Leventhal, and Burns, 2001), and style of personal organization may be an important determinant of whether individuals successfully adhere to medication regimens (Brown and Park, 2003; Park and Kidder, 1996). In cognitive task environments, the particular strategies people select for approaching a task can have a profound impact on novice and skilled performance of older adults (Hertzog, 1985; 1996; Rogers, 2000; Touron and Hertzog, in press). In the domain of technological intervention, individuals vary widely in past experience regarding computers, VCRs, ATMs, and other devices, and their attitudes toward technology, self-efficacy beliefs in technology use, and general ability may have important influences on their willingness to use and effectiveness in using complex technical devices (Czaja, 2001). For example, some window interfaces may work better for novices than for expert mouse users whereas other interfaces may work better for experts than for novices (Tombaugh, Lickorish, and Wright, 1987). Evaluators of the usability of heads-up devices for detecting objects on the road ahead may focus on individuals who are familiar with a specific make of automobile or may test individuals new to both the type of auto used in the assessment and to the display device. Choice between these user groups will impact the conclusions that can be drawn. Therefore, a critical issue for researchers is to determine whether an evaluation design needs to be able to detect interactions of person differences with the target outcome variables. If so, more-complicated statistical analyses are needed for designs that have identified the relevant variables, measured the relevant covariates, and have sampled enough individuals to be able to have the power to detect possible interactions between characteristics of persons and the benefit they derive from intervention. A prior question for the researcher is whether such heterogeneity should be explicitly evaluated, with a larger sample, or whether people will be deliberately selected for homogeneity on particular variables, arguing that a particular target group or groups is the right starting point for evaluating a technical intervention (see Schaie, 1973). What Are the Outcome (Dependent) Variables of Interest? Choice of dependent variables will necessarily depend on the research question at hand. In early stages of design and redesign of tech-

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Technology for Adaptive Aging nology, the focus is likely to be on issues of usability and safety, rather than on costs and benefits of technology. Once implemented, the dependent variables of interest may shift more toward issues of costs and benefits. Costs and benefits can be assessed at a number of levels, but the nature of these must first be defined. They may be construed narrowly or broadly; as affecting the individual using the technology; as affecting others with whom the user interacts at home, in the workplace, and in the community; or as affecting society more broadly. They may be defined very specifically with regard to the task at hand. For example, the benefit of a telephone reminder system may be assessed quite simply by comparing rates of keeping appointments with healthcare providers or in terms of cost-benefit analyses that take into account the costs of missed appointments and the cost of implementing the reminder system. The impact of a new technology in the workplace can be evaluated in terms of increased efficiency assessed by speed or accuracy of output (or some measure of efficiency that takes both into account), in terms of quality of interpersonal relationships among users of the technology, in terms of increased sense of well-being or efficacy on the part of the user, or in terms of increases or decreases in stress associated with performing particular tasks after introduction of the technology. The use of ATMs may produce benefits for both users and banks in terms of time saved for transactions, but there may be potential costs in terms of frustration in learning to use the ATM and in loss of personal contact with bank employees. Telemedicine may bring diagnostic and health maintenance services to those without transportation or who live far from specialized medical facilities, but there may be costs if the accuracy of the instrumentation is not high or if there are differences in the nature of information provided by patients to healthcare providers via telecommunication devices and in face-to-face interactions. Learning data entry or other computer skills may bring the opportunity of employment both in the work place and from the home (telecommuting) to older adults, providing enhancements in income during retirement. Maintaining the presence of older adults in the work force can have benefits at the individual level in terms of increased income and sense of self-worth, as well as effects at a societal level that may vary depending on the state of the economy and the need for workers in particular job categories. Use of the computer or telecommunication devices as adjuncts to psychotherapy for caregivers of patients with dementia can reduce the perceived burden of caregiving, provide information about support groups and other services, and allow for extended communication with family members. Below we dis-

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Technology for Adaptive Aging cuss in more detail issues associated with the choice of specific measures for assessing outcomes. Is Event or Time Sampling Needed? Another critical design issue is whether individuals must be followed over time to evaluate treatment efficacy. Sometimes long-term retention of a newly acquired skill is a crucial issue, and a follow-up to training after an extended lag is needed to fully evaluate training effectiveness. For example, a critical test of a memory intervention may not be whether individuals′ memory performance is better immediately after training, but whether trained skills and memory performance improvements are maintained over days, months, or years (Neely and Bäckman, 1993). Furthermore, the nature of technology use can be conceptualized as the development of skilled behavioral repertoires over time. Hence, one may need to evaluate changes in behavior over the course of training in order to understand how skills develop over time, as well as the relevance of other variables as mediators or moderators of training effectiveness at various stages after the introduction of some technology (Kanfer and Ackerman, 1989). The literature suggests that older adults can often acquire new skills, but that they do so more slowly at best, and are sometimes differentially susceptible to influences that can impede skill acquisition (Charness and Bosman, 1992; Kausler, 1994; Touron and Hertzog, in press). Nevertheless, assessment of skills or attitudes at a single point in time may not provide results that generalize to real-world settings, where skills are often acquired over long periods of time in intermittent, dispersed learning contexts. Assessment of change over time becomes critical for understanding how much or what kind of training produces optimal use of new technology. Event sampling may be important for other questions. Event sampling here refers to collecting data when (or if) a specific event or state change occurs. For example, individuals may be maintained in a research panel but may be transferred to a different protocol contingent on specific events (e.g., progression of pathology to a functional level requiring new forms of technological support). Alternatively, data may be sampled according to the onset of specific events encountered by participants (e.g., elevation of blood pressure or blood glucose, a social encounter). Time sampling may also be an important method for establishing preintervention equivalence when a randomized experiment is not feasible. Introduction of time or event sampling in the design can improve the ability of the design to address critical research questions, but it is almost always accompanied by an increase in the complexity of the design and the resulting data analyses.

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Technology for Adaptive Aging MEASUREMENT ISSUES IN ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION Here we consider some general issues associated with common methods of measurement in the social sciences used in field and laboratory settings that are relevant to assessing the impact of technology for older adults. Reliability and Validity Any method used to decide whether outcomes are meaningful must involve measures that are reliable or consistent. Reliability is often operationalized as stable or consistent individual differences in item responses, either in terms of test-retest correlations, correlations of alternate forms, or measures of internal consistency in responses to sets of relatively homogeneous items (Guion, 2002). More generally, it is the ratio of consistent to total variance. Reliability, by standard accounts, is necessary but not sufficient for establishing construct validity—a variable can repeatedly and consistently measure something(s) other than the construct of interest. However, developmental methodologists have repeatedly shown that stable individual differences are not necessarily the critical measure of consistency; labile measures of psychological states (e.g., mood or affect) often show good reliability within an occasion, but little between-person correlation across different times (Hertzog and Nesselroade, 1987, in press; Nesselroade, 1991). To establish reliability and validity of a given variable, it is critical to consider whether the construct is static or dynamic and the conditions that would give rise to static or dynamic sources of measurement error. Generically, the most important issue facing any research is ensuring the construct validity of target measures, that is, whether a measure actually taps the construct of interest as conceptualized in a research question (Cronbach and Meehl, 1955; Guion, 2002). This issue can be framed as one of considering the (potentially) multiple sources of variance that affect responses on questionnaires, surveys, or psychological tasks. Variables with higher ratios of construct-relevant variance to total variance, or in regression terms, higher validity coefficients, are of course preferred to variables with low validity coefficients. However, given that we cannot directly observe many important psychological constructs, the problem of comparing validity coefficients is not at all transparent. What is needed is research that establishes what Cronbach and Meehl (1955) termed a nomological net, that is, a pattern of relationships among variables that is consistent with theoretical arguments about how a construct should relate to other constructs. Measures should show good convergent validity with other measures of the same construct, provided that

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Technology for Adaptive Aging the same facets of the construct are being measured. At the same time, they should diverge from measures of related but distinct constructs (discriminant validity—Campbell and Fiske, 1959; see Campbell and Russo, 2001). They should also show differential patterns of predictive validity to related or cognate constructs. In practice, addressing issues of construct validity often involves the use of complex multivariate statistics, such as confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation models (Hertzog, 1996; McArdle and Prescott, 1994; Schaie and Hertzog, 1985). These approaches can be used to estimate construct-related or method-related sources of variance (Widaman, 1985) and can be used to test hypotheses about construct relations in ways that adjust for measurement properties of the variables (e.g., Hertzog and Bleckley, 2001). One important lesson that can be learned from validation research is that testing models of nomological nets cannot be separated from asking substantive questions about the possible implications of different theories from data. One does not create valid measures in a first step and then do substantive research on validated measures in a second step. Instead, the process of addressing substantive questions inevitably involves also collecting information on the validity of measurement assumptions and decisions and the behavior of variables. The extent to which these considerations play a role in evaluating societal impact varies from domain to domain and research question to research question. Measures must always be reliable and valid, but validity may be easier to assess in some situations than in others. Face validity (what a scale seems to measure) of measures may be relatively transparent in many problems. Face validity is also often useful for promoting participant satisfaction and compliance (Babbie, 2003). If one wants to know whether use of infrared devices for detecting objects in the dark reduces nighttime accidents in older adults, archival records of accidents would be appropriate sources of evidence; and the operationalization of the measure and its relationship to the construct of interest is straightforward. If one wants to know whether changing the features on a mouse improves the ability to click on a small window on the screen, this too has a straightforward dependent measure with a straightforward interpretation. On the other hand, face validity can reduce construct validity if people react to the apparent goal of the measure by altering their responses (as in the case of emitting socially desirable responses). Evaluating construct validity can be complex. Consider the case of caregiving and the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer′s Caregivers′ Health (REACH) study. Gitlin et al. (2003) discuss two outcome measures. One was the Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression

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Technology for Adaptive Aging FIGURE 4-3 Standard representation of an interrupted time-series design in a single group (see Campbell and Stanley, 1966). In this case, individuals are measured at five points in time prior to the intervention and then five points in time after the intervention. The hypothesis is that the intervention will result in a different curve than would have been observed in the absence of the intervention. In practice, a larger number of observation points would often be necessary to determine that the curves before and after the intervention are discontinuous (McCleary, 2000). The design can be strengthened by adding randomized or quasi-experimental groups that do not receive the intervention. vention event (possibly not under control of the experimenter) is scheduled sufficiently far in advance to enable the researcher to collect adequate baseline data on the time series before it is interrupted. An audiologic rehabilitation program described by Pichora-Fuller and Carson (2001) exemplifies this approach. In the first phase of the project, the measures of interest were administered on two occasions separated by 6 months, permitting assessment of change over time without intervention. The program was then implemented and the same measures were administered twice more, also at 6-month intervals, permitting assessment of change after the intervention. Comparison of change scores before and after the intervention helps to rule out the alternative explanation that the observed gains after the intervention were due simply to the presence of the researchers at the residential facility at which the program was introduced. A critical problem for time-series designs is accounting for autocorrelation and distinguishing seasonal or temporal cycles from effects of societal interventions (McCleary, 2000). Descriptive time-series analysis often produces apparently interpretable patterns of flux that can be attributed to multiple, time-varying causes. For this reason, there may be so many rival explanations for the trends that definitive statements about causes of change are not possible. In contrast, the judicious introduction and removal of treatments in the context of time-series observations should produce lawful displacements from temporal flux that covary with the treatment′s manipulations, provided that the intervention is effective (see Cook and Campbell, 1979; McCleary, 2000). CONSIDERING THE IMPLICATIONS OF RESEARCH RESULTS Within the community of physical and mental healthcare providers, issues of clinical significance are increasingly under evaluation (see e.g.,

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Technology for Adaptive Aging Czaja and Schulz, 2003; Schulz et al., 2002). Czaja and Schulz (2003, p. 231) define clinical significance as “the practical importance of the effect of an intervention (treatment) or the extent to which the intervention makes a real difference to the individual or society. For the individual, clinical significance is obviously important. A treatment should effect a change on some outcome that is important to the life of an individual.” In formulating policy within social agencies, both private and public, the goal is to have evidence-based interventions. We believe that the framework in which Czaja and Schulz (2003) cast issues of clinical significance can be usefully extended to issues of evaluating the impact of technology. Following their exposition, we discuss (a) defining what is meant by a significant outcome and selection of measures to index these outcomes and (b) social significance. Defining Significant Outcomes Issues of “significance” are sometimes defined in terms of statistical significance, but because statistical significance is a function of sample size as well as the heterogeneity of the group or groups being assessed, the reliability of the measures involved, and other factors, some statisticians prefer to think instead in terms of effect sizes such as r2 or d. Deciding on the magnitude of an effect that is considered large or important, however, is a subject of some debate. For example, Cohen (1988) proposes that, for the t-test, ds of 0.20, 0.50, and 0.80 be considered small, medium, and large effect sizes. Rosenthal (1995) has noted that very small effect sizes may translate into important differences in terms of number of persons who benefit from medical treatments. Kazdin (1999) has also suggested that clinically significant outcomes can occur when change is large, small, or indeed absent! What counts as a meaningful change in outcome measures will vary from domain to domain. Consider the case of CES-D as an outcome measure in the REACH study discussed above (Gitlin et al., 2003). In the Miami sample, one group of caregivers received an intervention called the Family-Based Structural Multisystem In-Home Intervention (FSMII) and another received the FSMII and a Computer Telephony Integration System (CTIS). The CTIS included use of a screen phone with text display screens and enhanced functions that allow both voice and text to be sent. The expectation was that this would facilitate communication in therapy sessions, increase access to support from family members and others, and provide access to medication and nutrition information and linkages to formal resources as well as some caregiver respite activities. A minimal support control group was also included. The group with CTIS showed a greater improvement in CES-D scores from baseline over a 6-month pe-

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Technology for Adaptive Aging riod than did the control group (Gitlin et al., 2003). The control group showed a small change from 18.34 to 17.73, whereas the CTIS group showed a decline from 16.08 to 13.88. There are different ways of evaluating the importance of this effect. A CES-D score of 16 is treated as the cutoff for persons to be at risk for major depression. So one way to look at this is that the CTIS group moved out of the at-risk category. Another way to evaluate the outcome would be to ask whether the CTIS group mean at 6 months looks more like some normative group than it did at baseline. This of course presumes that there is an appropriate comparison group. Other approaches are also possible (e.g., Jacobson, Roberts, Berns, and McGlinchey, 1999). Note, however, that in absolute terms the change of the CTIS group was 2.20 points whereas that of the control group was 0.61 points. The change here, although significant, may not make what Kazdin (1999, p. 332) refers to as “a real (e.g., genuine, palpable, practical, noticeable) difference in everyday life to the clients or to others with whom the clients interact.” Here we could ask whether the CTIS led to perceived reductions in stress that were important to the caregiver′s sense of quality of life or increased the ability to provide care so that the care recipient remained at home or lived longer. Similar issues presumably arise when one considers the effects of assistive devices. One can ask whether the use of particular walkers leads to a significant decrease in number of falls at home, fewer visits to healthcare providers, greater independence, reductions in difficulty performing activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living—and of course all of the interpretive issues described above would apply. In the case of hearing aids, one can ask what it means to be able to report back correctly one more word or sentence in noise. And so on. In some cases, it is likely to be very difficult to quantify the outcomes. For example, older adults use the Internet to get information about health and to plan travel. What is the appropriate measure here for determining the effect that these uses have? Social Significance of Outcomes Here the issue is the extent to which an intervention generates outcomes that are important to or have an impact on society. Social significance can be defined fairly simply in some cases. For example, in the case of caregiving, Czaja and Schulz (2003) point to measures of residential care, placement, patient longevity, patient functional status, service utilization, impact on employment, and cost-effectiveness. Some of these, of course, are also highly relevant for evaluating the result of providing assistive devices to those who need them. Other measures will vary from application to application. There might be costs associated with use of

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Technology for Adaptive Aging computers in interventions with caregivers—users might come to expect a higher level of accessibility to expert medical personnel, leading to additional issues of how to compensate healthcare providers for their time. Searching the Internet for medical information could lead to better informed physician-patient interactions but also to costs in terms of problems in understanding technical material available on the web and increases in self-medication or susceptibility to the consequences of faulty information sources (and scams). Providing state-of-the-art assistive devices such as artificial limbs might improve mobility and perceived quality of life, but such devices may be costly. Each of these examples suggests the need for definition of terms and selection of measures that are sensitive to the particular kinds of costs and benefits that are anticipated when a technology is implemented or discovered afterwards. How this might be accomplished is, regretfully, beyond the scope of this chapter. CONCLUSIONS We have attempted to identify the critical issues for researchers who are designing research to evaluate the impact of technological change on older adults. Our purpose in raising a number of difficult issues is not to imply that valid research in this area is impossible. To the contrary, we believe that inoculating researchers with information about challenges to good research in this domain is the best method of fostering quality research outcomes and sound scientific and policy inferences based on them. Indeed, the other chapters in this volume are a testament to the fact that high-quality scientific research about aging is abundant and is having a major impact on how we understand the aging process, older adults, and the impact of technology on them. Older populations present special problems for the researcher, as do the goals of evaluating older adults′ current practices and formulating effective interventions that enhance older adults′ functioning. We hope this chapter will raise awareness about the issues that must be tackled to ensure that our society responds to the challenges of enhancing the quality of life of older adults through technological innovation. If we have raised readers′ consciousness about the importance of actually evaluating impact and benefit of technology, rather than presuming it, then we have accomplished one of our major goals. REFERENCES Alwin, D.F., and Campbell, R.T. (2001). Quantitative approaches: Longitudinal methods in the study of human development and aging. In R.H. Binstock and L.K. George (Eds.), Handbook of aging and the social sciences (pp. 22-43). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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