The Nostalgia Bits Project

The Nostalgia Bits (NoBits) is an AAL-funded project completed in 2013 and including 10 Partners from 6 countries (Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Greece and Italy).

The objective of the project was to develop an innovative social network solution to increase social interaction between elderly people and their families, as well as to improve intergenerational communication. To this purpose, the project designed, implemented and evaluated a web platform for the elderly and their families for capturing, digitally archiving, and sharing their memories encapsulated in letters, newspaper clippings, postcards, photos, and other artefacts. These memory artifacts are a powerful resource of use by other members of the community – either to exchange experiences or to learn about different periods in history. A further goal is to mitigate feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem of seniors. An important additional benefit of Nostalgia Bits is that it conduces to situations that co-involve grandparents and their children/grandchildren in the process of uploading artefacts, generating occasions for off-line interactions between family members, and thereby reducing isolation and loneliness of the elderly person. The project leveraged a tailor-made business software, participatory design from the outset, and rigorous, evidence-based, iterative market research and testing methods to systematically build understanding about the rational and emotional needs of end users throughout the development process.

The target segment of NoBits are elderly people who are between 55-75 years old. These are up to 20 million Italians, 3.5 million Greeks and 3 million Hungarians in 2012. Experts assume the potential market to reach a size of around 1.5 – 3 million Italians and 0.3 – 3 million Hungarians aged 55+. Quantitative research shows that the size of the main target segment of status seekers could amount to 5.5 million people in Italy and to 0.6 million in Hungary. The second target segment of NoBits are children aged between 10-12 years.


Figure 1 A screenshot from the Italian version of the Nostalgia Bits shared reminiscence portal

All partners of the NoBits consortium took the responsibility to identify and motivate elderly people and children to participate in a variety of research studies through the duration of the NoBits project, to ensure that their needs are systematically investigated and understood as vital inputs to portal and service design. User inclusion is formalized via expert surveys, qualitative focus group discussions, quantitative online surveys, and multiple field trials, including a stream of long term summative evaluations. Field trials have been conducted in Italy, Hungary in 2013, using a consistent set of research questions and systematic methods to ensure that findings are universally applied to guide development. Participants included representative samples of target elderly people and grandchildren. Methods included ad hoc tests with fresh users, and summative evaluations to explore impacts from continued use, including improvements in the users overall interaction with family, friends and the community. Best practices were used to investigate user behaviour and appeal of NoBits solutions, including use of e-prototypes, end to end demonstrator and experience sampling methods to investigate agreed operational scenarios. In particular, the main objective of the field trials was to evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of the NoBits approach, the service platform and the individual technologies incorporated within it.

The methodology for the trials was articulated in two key phases: formative evaluation and summative evaluation. The specific objective of the formative evaluation was to finalize the adequacy of the technical NoBits solutions, by means of identification and subsequent remediation of bottlenecks. The formative evaluation involved usability experts and small groups of users. In contrast to formative evaluation, the goal of summative evaluation was to judge the worth of the NoBits approach at the end of usability testing. For that reason, summative evaluation was about having participants use the NoBits service platform and tools without the obtrusive presence of the researcher or artificial usage conditions. The evaluation provided a broad overview of user wishes and/or concerns with the use of a social reminiscing system.

Relevance to EIP AHA

By providing an innovative social network platform to support elderly reminiscence (a well-known approach to promote psycho-social wellbeing in older adults), the Nostalgia Bits project contributes to the objective of “integrating and adapting existing solutions” (action 4.4). In particular, intergenerational reminiscence has a significant potential as an intervention to bridge the generation gap. Aside from being a way for older adults to transmit life lessons to younger generations (e.g., dating tips), NoBits research suggests that reminiscing and storytelling may be an important way for older adults to change stereotypical views of themselves in the mind of younger generations, while bolstering perceived quality of life and decreasing levels of loneliness in older populations at the same time. Furthermore, the NoBits service concept can be potentially transferred to other European organisations/regions with minimal effort.

Valuable indicators

In the Italian site, I.R.C.C.S. Istituto Auxologico Italiano, in collaboration with partner FIMI S.r.L., explored the potential benefits of NoBits approach in a feasibility study, which involved 32 older adults and 114 students participating in a within-subject, repeated measures design. Participants were assigned to 16 groups, each including two seniors and six to eight pupils. The intervention consisted of three weekly meetings, totaling to about six hours of reminiscing activities. Pretest and posttest measures included seniors’ perceived levels of Loneliness, Self-esteem, and Quality of life. In addition, the effects of intergenerational contact on children’s perception of the elderly were investigated by using an ad hoc semantic differential scale. Analyses of pre- and postintervention measures revealed that the elderly participants reported signifi- cantly lower values of loneliness and an increase in perceived Quality of life. Further, results indicated that following their participation in the program the children’s attitude towards the elderly positively changed in a positive way. Intergenerational group reminiscence is a potentially effective activity to improve psychosocial wellbeing and Quality of life in healthy older adults and to improve the way younger generations perceive the elderly.

References

Nostalgia Bits website (Italian platform): www.nobits.it

Publications

  • Gaggioli, A., Morganti, L., Bonfiglio, S., Scaratti, C., Cipresso, P., Serino, S., Riva G. (2014) Intergenerational Group Reminiscence: A Potentially Effective Intervention to Enhance Elderly Psychosocial Wellbeing and to Improve Children’s Perception of Aging. Educational Gerontology 40 (7); 486-498.
  • Gaggioli, A., Scaratti, C., Morganti, L., Stramba-Badiale, M., Agostoni, M., Spatola, C.Am., Molinari, E., Cipresso, P., Riva, G. (2014) Effectiveness of group reminiscence for improving wellbeing of institutionalized elderly adults: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials 15(408):1-6.
  • Morganti, L., Riva, G., Gaggioli, A. (2013) Building collective memories on the web: the Nostalgia Bits project. International Journal of Web Based Communities 01/2013; 9(1):83-104.

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