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The Age Wave: Technology and the Maturing Workforce

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Much has recently been written about the impact of the retiring ‘baby boomer’ generation and the corporate and societal impacts of such a shift. One facet of this shift is that older adults who choose to work past the traditional retirement age often will be employed in jobs that require new technical skills. These older workers, however, are often confused by rapidly changing technologies and fall short of the skills required to successfully learn and operate new systems. Notably, technology challenges for older workers are unlikely to be resolved when the current middle aged workers become older themselves. Not only will the abilities of currently middle age workers change as they grow older, but technology will continue to evolve. This talk considers the implications of demographic shifts on the workforce and inclusive design considerations for supporting older workers.

Bio: Prof. Hanson has been involved in working with people with disabilities for 30 years. From 1978 to 1986, she conducted research in the areas of American Sign Language (ASL) and reading, first as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Laboratory of Language and Cognition at the Salk Institute and then as a Research Associate in the Reading Research Group at Haskins Laboratories. She joined the IBM Research Division in 1986 and currently manages the Accessibility Research group at IBM ’s T. J. Watson Research Center. Holding a doctorate in Cognitive Psychology, her primary research areas consist of computer usability, aging, web accessibility, and learning and cognitive disabilities. Through an Award from the Leverhulme Trust to the University of Dundee, she is serving as a Visiting Professor at the university during 2007 – 08, focusing her research on approaches to improving computer technology to make it more useful and usable for older adults.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre series.

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