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Ageless Accessibility: Designing User-First Experiences for Seniors

While technology is commonly associated with the younger generations, it’s easy to forget that our senior citizens are also using and adapting to tech.

The usability of digital technology for senior citizens is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced digital world. Despite being active tech users, their needs are often not considered. Today, in this article, we will discuss the usability necessities of seniors, understand their behaviour, identify their challenges, and explore best practices for creating digital experiences that cater to their global needs.
Ageless Accessibility: Designing User-First Experiences for Seniors
Seniors Age Group Classification, Based on a Journal.

How Seniors Spend Time Online

Seniors are embracing the digital world and spending more time online than ever before. They engage in various activities and adapt to the digital landscape uniquely. To understand our seniors and their behaviour in the digital environment, let’s look at the research conducted by AARP in 2023.

Survey on How Seniors Spend Time Online
So, what drives them to engage in the online environment?

Surveys from Google and AARP show the three highest ranks of activities related to how seniors spend time online.

  1. Communication and Social Connection
    Seniors frequently use the internet for communication and maintaining social connections. This includes staying in touch with family and friends through email, messaging apps, social media platforms, and video calls. Facebook and YouTube are their most popular social media platforms, but as we look into this year, Instagram and TikTok are also on the rise.
  2. Information and Learning
    Seniors use the internet not only for communication but also for accessing information and learning about health, finances, handicrafts, travelling, cooking, and other types of online tutorials that suit their interests and help them improve.
  3. Entertainment and Hobbies
    Seniors enjoy online entertainment and pursue hobbies through various digital platforms. Streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, online games, and digital books allow them to access a wide range of content from the comfort of their homes.
As we grow older, our physical and cognitive abilities may diminish and impact our ability to use technology.

Challenges They Face in the Online Environment

As we grow older, our physical and cognitive abilities may diminish and impact our ability to use technology. Therefore, designing digital experiences for senior citizens requires special attention. Here are five key challenges that designers need to take into account when designing digital experiences for seniors that we have gathered from various sources.
  • Difficulty Learning New Technology
    Many seniors find technology challenging or confusing, lacking the patience to learn new devices or software. This may lead to frustration and a reluctance to engage with technology.
  • Visual Impairments
    Seniors often face difficulty seeing screens and buttons due to age-related vision problems, poor eyesight, or inadequate lighting conditions.
  • Reduced Finger Dexterity
    Ageing is associated with a significant decrease in finger dexterity, making it challenging for seniors to press buttons or keys on keyboards and touchscreen devices accurately.
  • Navigation Challenges
    Seniors may struggle to locate specific options within menus, windows, or web pages. The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, leading to confusion and a tendency to give up on the task before attempting to navigate further.
  • Memory Issues
    Difficulty remembering the location of specific interface options poses a significant challenge.

Creating a Digital Environment for Seniors

Meet Masako Wakamiya, an 88-year-old app developer from Japan who invented the ‘Hinadan’ game app, an application made for the elderly. In her interviews, Masako said she created this app simply because there weren’t any fun games for seniors. Leaving that problem statement, she started to teach herself how to program and asked her peers to help her with key points.
Younger designers can enrich their approach by drawing inspiration from Masako Wakamiya and adopting a user-centric mindset when crafting digital experiences for seniors. To enhance usability and enjoyment, consider the following five best practices:
  • User-Centric Design
    Prioritise a user-centric approach, placing the needs and preferences of seniors at the forefront of the design process. This involves conducting user research, gathering insights, and incorporating feedback from seniors to ensure the technology aligns with their expectations and capabilities.
  • Accessible User Interfaces
    Focus on creating accessible user interfaces with clear typography, high contrast, and intuitive navigation. Larger fonts, prominent buttons, and simplified menu structures enhance visibility and usability for seniors with visual impairments or reduced cognitive abilities.
  • Adaptive Technology
    Explore the integration of adaptive technologies, such as voice recognition and gesture controls, to accommodate seniors with reduced finger dexterity. These technologies offer alternative methods of interaction that can be more comfortable and accessible for seniors.
  • Guided Learning and Assistance
    Implement features that provide guided learning and assistance, helping seniors navigate new technologies. This may include tutorial pop-ups, tooltips, and easily accessible help menus to support users in understanding and using the technology effectively.
  • Inclusive Testing with Seniors
    Conduct usability testing with seniors to gather firsthand insights into their experiences and challenges. By involving seniors in the testing phase, designers can identify potential issues and refine the design to meet their needs better.
Designing digital experiences for senior citizens requires a thoughtful and empathetic approach. By taking the time to understand their needs and limitations, designers can create interfaces that are both accessible and enjoyable for seniors to use. Lastly, this article might answer all the questions of young adults about why the elderly are always confused and keep forgetting how to use technology.

Will we all face the same challenges once we are all seniors? Share this article and leave your thoughts!

Resources:
Monica Halim
UX Copywriter, Webfeeling

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