Curated by Lui Rogliano
We’re all getting older.
That’s not a ground-breaking thought but with a mainstream hung-up on youth, it does mean we tend to forget that “we’re all put on this Earth to decay”, as a close friend said to me years ago.
I suppose I’ve recently been thinking more about aging since I returned home from Melbourne to see my family. I noticed my grandmother’s health had declined a bit – she’s still well, but less mobile and more reliant on family. That got me wondering about the other things that could help her, in addition to people. Specifically, how is design being used to craft digital products and services for people “her age”?
My grandmother is 90 – after a not-so-thorough search, I couldn’t really see many digital or tech products that could make a difference to her life. Yes, some products and services exist, and yes, programs are starting to pop-up in communities to help seniors. But the biggest problem I found is how ‘seniors’ is defined and how limited the solutions seem to be for the diverse people that make up this category. After all, the needs of a 60 year-old are very different from those of a 90 year-old. It has to be more than just bigger buttons, brighter colours and medication alarms. (Side note, why are 60 year-olds considered senior?)
I posed a question to UXSG to see if the talent of the wider community could help me answer one question – how do we design for seniors? The group delivered some interesting insights – all first hand, of course – which can be categorised under four convenient pillars of advice.
1. Speak to the audience
The words ‘seniors’ and ‘digital’ don’t spring to mind as a natural pairing. It is vital to speak to the audience to understand barriers that prevent them from confidently adopting technology. We need to understand what their version of success is rather than simply assuming what we *think* they want to achieve.
2. Understand their motives
This point is key because it will define the solution.
3. Provide a reason to adopt
Perhaps the reason is emotional rather than functional. Seniors tend to have more time so let them tap into their hobby rather than reminding them to swallow a tablet. If technology is seen as difficult, we will need to focus on the benefits and think about a gentle transition to encourage uptake.
4. Design for lifestyle
Probably the most important point. As mentioned earlier, this demographic is diverse and we simply cannot see seniors as people who are decaying. Most are still very active – doing all the things that ‘life’ prevented them from doing years earlier. For this reason, we must design for their lifestyle rather than for their age.
As always, this is discussion is a starting point so additional comments and thoughts are welcome.3