Designing for the Elderly: Ways Older People Use Technology Differently

In the article, Designing for the Elderly: Ways Older People Use Technology Differently, the author discusses how technology is designed today versus how older generations actually use technology.  The article notes that most technology is designed with only younger people in mind, but in reality, most of the people in the United States are actually elderly.  The argument is also made that good design should be for all different types of people, not just a certain age range or demographic.  The author, Ollie Campbell, describes how older people use technology and offers some tips on how we as designers can cater to them or keep them in mind while designing.

The first important component to designing for the elderly is physical challenges.  In regards to technology, these challenges mostly surround hearing and or vision.  As a person ages, these two senses deteriorate and fade, making tiny print on a screen difficult to see.  A good design option for this is allowing for adjustable font size on a devices screen.

Another aspect is motor control.  Motor control also declines with age, so using a mouse actually becomes difficult for older people.  Touchscreens are actually a better option for this age range.

Older generations also use devices differently.  According to the research done by Campbell and her associates, old people actually fine smart phones “annoying” and “fiddly” (2015).  They would rather opt for the larger screens of tablets than deal with small devices.

The piece that I found most interesting, however, is how old people respond to relationships.  Their relationships are different than younger peoples.  The large, undifferentiated masses of social media does not appeal to them, but small, intimate, well trusted friends and relationships do.  They still wish to connect, but it is simply with a smaller group.  This also means changing some areas of design as well, such as minimizing security and privacy controls when it comes to those trusted relationships.

Another difference is cognition and memory, which also declines over time.  Everyone can learn new tasks, and how to use new tools, even old people.  However, the system or setup of the operation needs to be simplified for older generations, and prompts and reminders need to be offered for them to continue to function well.

There are a few more components that were listed, but the above were most interesting to me.  Overall, it is key to keep this group in mind when designing, and also to remember where they are different from the younger generation.  In essence, the elderly are a crucial piece of good design.

Campbell, O. (2015, February 5). Designing for the Elderly: Ways Older People Use Digital Technology Differently. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/02/05/designing-digital-technology-for-the-elderly/

 

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One thought on “Designing for the Elderly: Ways Older People Use Technology Differently

  1. This has been a popular article among your classmates too, and I think the topic is becoming even more relevant. It is going to be a design challenge we hear more and more about as the baby boomers continue to age and become a significant portion of the population. It seems apparent that issues of adjustability/flexibility and universal design become key for technology design as well as many other aspects of product or furniture design.

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