Worldwide, the number of people over the age of 60 is rising faster than any other age group — from 962 million in 2017 to an expected 2.1 billion in 2050, and 3.1 billion in 2100.
Edward Steinfeld, AIA and Director of the IDeA Center, wrote a fantastic article for the American Architectural Foundation about the need for age-friendly community design. Steinfeld argues that the creation of age-restricted communities, like The Villages in Orlando, FL, removes older adults who can afford them from the community at large. This negatively impacts communities, which greatly benefit from the contributions of active seniors. The lack of age diversity in these segregated senior communities also creates a situation that is not socially sustainable for the residents. Steinfeld wonders what will happen in these communities once most of the residents are in their 80s and 90s. What’s the solution?
Steinfield goes on to explore the ways in which Universal Design can make communities more functional and beneficial for all citizens, including older adults. He discusses how stores like IKEA have used Universal Design to benefit their customers and improve sales. Steinfeld also explores the model of Nordic co-housing communities, which have no age restrictions and can help to support older adults while allowing them to continue engaging in the wider world.
The Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences recently published an article exploring the problems that older adults have accessing web-pages. Older adults often encounter barriers to accessing the web due to disabilities like vision impairments, hearing impairments, and motor impairments. Older adults are also more likely to be unfamiliar with the standard conventions that govern how to navigate through a web-page. Simple and intuitive web design as well as guides and tutorials can help older adults learn how to access a website’s features. The paper also analyzes how well Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail fair in relation to WAI AGE guidelines (Web Accessibility Guidelines for older adults by W3C) and heuristics evaluation based on AARP’s web heuristics for older adults. For instance, the report investigated the following issues that can impact an older user’s experience of a website:
- Are command and action items presented as buttons? (AARP)
- Do button and link labels start with action words? (AARP)
- Are clickable items highlighted differently from other nonclickable highlighted items? (AARP)
- Do graphic buttons avoid symbols that will be unfamiliar to older adults who have low computer and Web expertise? (AARP)
- Is there a visible change (other than the cursor changing) when the user “points” to something clickable with his or her mouse? (AARP)
- Is link treatment the same from section to section within the site? (AARP)
- Is a text size adjustment link provided? (WAI-AGE)
All of the email platforms demonstrated room for improvement in making their websites intuitive and easy-to-use for older adults.
Read study: Ilyas, M. (2012). A Study of Web Accessibility Barriers for Older AIlyas, M. (2012). A study of web accessibility barriers for older adults, and heuristics evaluation of email websites based on web accessibility heuristics for older adults by AARP. Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences, 3(5), 806-813.
These tips from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects can help urban planners and policy makers understand how to design a city to be better able to support people’s independence and well-being as they age. The tips cover areas like public spaces, streets, neighborhood development, buildings and residential units.