The PR2 robot hands medication to an older adult, in a study at Georgia Tech’s Aware Home.
There are also aspects of cognitive
function that show age-related declines,
for example working memory.
Can you give some examples of
technology that’s designed well
for older adults?
Some websites are well-designed, with
high contrast and reduced jargon
and minimal distracting information.
Other websites are notoriously poorly
designed, where there’s so much going
on that it’s going to be difficult for
older adults to use them. My colleagues
Drs. Sara Czaja and Joseph Sharit at
the University of Miami found that
the majority of older adults could not
find the information they needed on
medicare.gov, for example.
If you do design something to be
easily used by older adults, it’s likely
to be more easily used by the general
population, too. But younger adults can
overcome some design flaws, whereas for
some older adults it may be so disruptive
that they end up not being successful
[using the technology].
Do companies pay attention to
It’s a mixture. But I think perhaps
more companies are starting to as the
demographics are changing. Part of our
challenge as psychologists is to make sure
that we’re translating our knowledge into
guidelines and principles that industry
can use, because they’re not going to read
the psychology journals. We’ve written a
book called “Designing for Older Adults”
(2009) to provide principles, guidelines,
best practices and so on directly targeted
toward industry and government and
One example from a company that
we’ve been partnering with called
BigScreenLive — they designed a
computer interface specifically for
older adults. So, instead of pulling up
the Internet and getting too much
information, it gives five basic functions,
such as email, photos and games.
Video: Watch the PR2
personal robot interact
with older adults at the