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Designing The Digital World For The Elderly

30 November, 2016

, Apps

It is amazing what going digital has done for each one of us. We now use Facebook to stay in touch with friends, share photos with Instagram and even shop online on Amazon. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that almost none of these digital platforms are designed keeping the elderly in mind. Perhaps, this is because most professionals working to build digital products are all very young, so they haven’t yet had the chance to appreciate diversity in demographics.


That said, the elder population is on the rise across the world, as is their use of electronic gadgets. There are some fundamental changes that come with aging, and by keeping these aspects in mind, we could design truly inclusive tech.


  1. Sensory perception, more specifically vision and hearing, do deteriorate with age. Smartphone screens are the standard 5 inches, so seeing may be very difficult on these devices. Some of the higher end phones do come with voice assistance, but most don’t. If you’re designing a page or service that the elderly will most likely use as well, design your zooming options such that the experience isn’t interrupted.
  2. Interfaces, such as buttons on a web page, forms, calls to action, etc. need to be spaced apart enough to allow seniors to click on them even if they have a slight tremor. Placing the OK and Cancel buttons too close to each other could cause them immense frustration.
  3. Most security questions are not designed keeping the elderly in mind. For example, a thirty-year-old may easily recall the colour of their childhood home, but can a sixty-year-old do so? One option is to have a different set of security questions based on age.
  4. A clean interface is always better than a flashy one and this applies to seniors too. Asking them to check out their e-carts within seven minutes could be a challenge for them. Likewise, some sites have inactivity warnings that are completely inappropriate for elders.


As you may have noticed, none of these design changes are mammoth, nor would they take away from a user’s experience. All of them, however, could add immense value to the elderly population accessing these resources. When in doubt, always include seniors in the testing population.


As a senior so look out for opportunities to participate in designs when someone you know is building the next great app. Even liberally using the feedback section in an app is a great way to let the developer know what you want. They do read the inputs! After all, everyone finally wants the user to be happy.

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