Designing Technology for Older Adults


The Monitor has a wonderful interview with Wendy Rogers, PhD, director of the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, describing how she understands the process of designing and developing technology for older adults. Rogers talks about the labratory’s “Aware Home,” a house-like environment where they can test out new technologies, like robots and health monitoring systems.  She goes on to explain how decreases in motor control, as well as perceptual and conceptual abilities need to be taken into account when designing for older adults. While younger users can sometimes compensate for a product’s or website’s poor design, this is harder for older users. Rogers explains that designing something to be easily used by older adults usually results in a product that is easier for everyone to use. Rogers also speaks about how some companies are starting to recognize the older adults as a market that they need to pay attention to and design for.

Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.