Gerontechnology
Website System

Background

Older adults represent a rapidly increasing percentage of the population in the United States, yet limited attention has been given to older persons in terms of Internet access, as well as usage of computer hardware and software. The "digital divide" (the gap that exists among those that have access to information and communication technology including computers and the Internet, and those that do not along with the ability to use these technologies) is greatest among the senior population and is sometimes referred to as the grey digital divide.

A gerontechnology project in Westchester County was cultivated in the Fall 2005 because of the mounting concern of the growing senior citizen population. In the year 2000, persons aged 60 and older represented 18% of the total population and is expected to comprise 22% of the population by 2020. This project involves bridging the digital divide of geriatric patients to improve their overall quality of life. Primary project partners include Pace University, Westchester Community College, United Hebrew (New Rochelle), Fordham University, and Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services. Since the pilot implementation of Spring 2006, over 170 meticulously trained undergraduate students enrolled in service-learning intergenerational computing classes have opened the world of computers and the Internet to elderly residents in independent living, assisted living, nursing home, and adult day care facilities.

This second part of this project, fosters technology use in the elderly population to stimulate cognitive functioning while improving the overall quality of life practically, emotionally, and socially. Older adults, when assisted with technology in individualized and non-threatening learning environments, overcome fears of computers, learn a new set of communication skills, become mentally challenged, and improve their daily life functions.

Project

A comprehensive website is needed to support this work, to serve as a resource for elderly users for brain exercises, as well as a repository of documents for those agencies interested in replicating the study. Objectives of the website include to further work in the area of improving brain cognition by accumulating data as a longitudinal study, as well as to improve dissemination of information for replication. For example, any older adult needs to be able to create a unique user ID and log into the site. The first time on the site, the older adult will take an assessment to determine which part of the brain needs improvement. Appropriate freeware games/brain exercises programs (or links) will be provided to the older adult to improve the parts of the brain that need improvement. The scores of the games needs to be saved and tracked, to determine if improvement has been made and periodically compared to original score. Activity time on the website needs to be tracked per user ID. The second objective of the website is to house documents that can be easily re-uploaded by any member of the research team that would allow our model to be replicated by outside agencies, as well as support inquiries emerging from presentations, workshops, media coverage, and publications.

This is the current website (unfinished). The web designer had to return to his home country, thus unavailable to continue the project. Though the site partially utilizes Ruby on Rails, it is not mandatory for the new site to use it. From our experience, the average web designer today does not have Ruby skills. Thus, to allow for future changes in the website, it is preferred the website development be implemented in a more common tool unless Ruby is the only means for the project.

The system will be developed on the Utopia server in our School of Computer Science and Information Systems. By midsemester the customer must be informed of the necessary hardware and software required to run the system. One month prior to the end of the semester the system will be transferred to a server on the customer's site. During the last month of the semester the system will be in operation at the customer's location, tests will be performed to ensure proper operation, and all problems will be fixed.

Fast Agile XP Deliverables

We will use the agile methodology, particularly Extreme Programming (XP) which involves small releases and fast turnarounds in roughly two-week iterations. Some of these deliverables might be done in parallel by different members or subsets of the team. The following is the current list of deliverables (ordered by the date initiated, deliverable modifications marked in red, deliverable date marked in bold red if programming involved, completion date and related comments marked in green, pseudo-code marked in blue):

  1. 2/1 Your first task on this web design/implement project is to gather requirements from your customer and develop a strategy and plan to complete the project work. Part of this strategy will be to determine what software you will use. Your instructor prefers that you use straight HTML or Dreamweaver (definitely not Frontpage and the like) for web pages and PHP for accessing MySQL backend databases (PHP and MySQL are robust and free). This task should be completed in about a week.
  2. 2/11 Design and implement a rough prototype website for your customer using the chosen software (from Deliverable 1), and get feedback from your customer. This task should be completed by week 5, and certainly no later than week 6 (we are currently in week 4). This should be possible because the 80-20 rule says that you can complete 80% of the work on a project in 20% of the time (the last 20% is often difficult to do and requires considerably more time and effort).
  3. 2/11 Design and implement an almost finished website system, and get feedback from your customer. This task is to be completed by week 9 and presented at the Second Classroom Meeting. Remember that the website system is to be transferred to the customer's server one month prior to the end of the semester. Therefore, at this point you should be almost done, except for final in-house testing and then customer testing in his/her environment.