US: Don’t leave older people behind when designing wearable technology

04 Jul 2017 | News
wearable technology

Wearable devices can provide users with constantly updated medical information, tracking cardiac health, identifying potential illnesses, and serving as emergency alert systems, among other benefits.

But poor design means wearables fail to meet the needs of older people, undermining the value of the technology, according to an article in the July 2017 issue of Ergonomics in Design, "Designing Wearable Technology for an Aging Population." 

Author Joanna Lewis, of the University of Central Florida, said, “The proportion of the population over the age of 65 is growing and will continue to do so. Technological developments are exponentially growing and inundating our lives, and we don’t want a demographic that is scaling up in size not to have access to devices that are becoming prolific in everyday society.”

Although wearable devices can serve as important tools for older adults, Lewis and coauthor Mark Neider found poor design means they can fail to address the ageing population’s needs. Older adults tend to experience feelings of mistrust and frustration when using new devices, with the result that they often abandon otherwise worthwhile technology.

Taking into account the role of age-linked declines in cognitive, physical, and sensory abilities, the authors identified several critical areas for improvement. These include reducing the steps required for users to complete a given action, minimising the need for multitasking, eliminating time constraints for completing a task, and increasing the size of buttons, icons, and text.



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