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Designing for the Elderly

What do we need to keep in mind when designing for the 50+ community?

Photo of Cynthia Andrews
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At its best, technology can have a profound effect on people's lives. [...] But even the best [health] products can fail if they're not created with people in mind.

- Navy Design mission statement

According to the Administration on Aging, by 2030 roughly 19% of the US population will be over 65. That's a huge chunk of people might end up being underserved if we don't design with accessibility in mind.

This article from Navy Design has a wealth of information about how older individuals interact with technology, some of which I have distilled below:

1. Device use

While using smartphones is second nature to most younger people older individuals view them as “annoying” and “fiddly”. If it's a product or service for those 50+ "let's make an app for that" probably isn't the right solution.

2. Relationships

They prefer close relationships with a small groups of trusted individuals (not big, unimportant social networks). 

3. Life stage

Security questions can implicitly assume where in life a user is. “What was the model of your first car?” which may be perfectly easy to remember for a 30-year-old but for a 66-year-old it is ludacris; that was thirty years ago!

4. Experience with technology

Interrogate all parts of your design for usability; even the parts you didn’t create. People who didn’t grow up with computers may have never used the interface elements we take for granted, like that the scroll bar allows you to move up and down on a page.

We need to remember to empathize with all potential users when designing new products and services, especially since reach has increased so exponentially.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Bad design is excluding whole sections of the population from the benefits of technology.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a Data Artist at Tableau & a student in the Integrated Digital Media graduate program at NYU.

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • I'm currently a member of a credit union

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Photo of Kate Rushton

This is a great post, Cynthia! I can wait to see your team's ideas in the idea phase.