WHERE AM I AND HOW DID I GET HERE? THE EFFECTS OF AGING ON INTERNET-BASED TRANSPORTATION NAVIGATION SKILLS
Tierney, Savanna M
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Difficulties using the internet can represent a barrier to optimal daily functioning, particularly for older adults, who may experience age-related neurocognitive changes. While much of the research on aging and internet task performance has focused on information searching, internet transit planning and navigation may also be relevant for older adults. The current study examined the effects of older age on internet navigation skills using a novel transit planning paradigm, explored neurocognitive correlates of internet transit navigation performance, and assessed the potential benefit of brief experimental support designed to enhance internet transportation planning ability and performance. Participants included 40 older and 50 younger adults who completed three thematically interrelated transit internet navigation tasks via a live San Francisco Transit website. Regression analyses showed that older adults were less accurate and also slower to complete internet transit tasks compared to younger participants at the level of large effect sizes. Among all participants, internet transit speed and accuracy demonstrated small-to-medium positive associations with standard clinical measures of episodic learning and memory. For a fourth transit task, participants in each group were randomized into either a control condition or into a condition in which they received a brief experimental support session to facilitate the planning and execution of the task. A significant age by condition term was observed, whereby the planning supports were more beneficial in the younger group than in the older group. Findings suggest that older adults experience difficulties quickly and accurately using a transit website to plan transportation routes, which may be related to their ability to learn and recall information. Given the lack of efficacy of a brief, planning-based support strategy among older adults, future work might examine the potential benefits of effective learning and memory strategies (e.g., spaced retrieval practice, elaboration).