As technology use among the elderly continues to rise, those of us who want seniors to actually use our technology need to keep their unique demographic characteristics in mind.
Smashing Magazine recently published an in-depth analysis of exactly how seniors interact with their technology. There are some great applications to those of us who are creating digital communications for the senior market.
Lessons for Engaging Seniors
Don’t underestimate the interest level seniors have in using technology in meaningful ways. When the design considerations are handled appropriately and the hardware itself is adapted well to senior’s unique abilities, seniors tend to spend a large portion of their time happily diving into the digital world. Watch the video below to see one of the most captivating uses of technology for enriching life at an adult living facility. (Warning: tear jerker!)
Visual abilities decline and change over time, so when planning websites or other digital content for seniors, give them a way to manipulate font sizes and other visual elements. When they can control these aspects themselves, they are more likely to invest significant amounts of time in the content itself.
Simplify the decisions you require the user to make. Remember the average age of your user, and design decision points wisely. For instance, security questions should not involve extensive memory use. As the author of the Smashing Magazine pointed out, asking a senior to remember their first car can involve going back in time 60 years in their memory! Make any action buttons very clear, with only one alternative for the user to choose. Click This! Touch Here!
Accommodate declining motor control. As you create digital content for seniors, be hyper-aware of placement on screens and optimization for mobile devices. They may know precisely what they need to do — click that button — and yet be unable to isolate that button on the screen to click it and only it. Physically allow enough space between on-screen choices to take motor tremors into account.
Add social value to your user. As always when designing content for any market, take your user’s unique characteristics into account and design content that will add value to their lives. For seniors, often their most dire need is for social connection. Any time you make it easier for them to feel a human interaction, you have added value to them. Focus your content on community, family and relationships in order to engage their hearts and loyalty.