Design and Interface Issues for Seniors

It would seem intuitively obvious that there are many issues related to the design and layout of the user interface with regards to IT use by the elderly.  As we advance in age, our eyesight diminishes and our manual dexterity deteriorates.  Thus, it would seem readily apparent that such concerns would be addressed by vendor of IT products.  However, with some exceptions, this has not been the case.  For the most part, computers and their associated peripheral devices are not designed with senior citizens in mind.  This is true of both hardware and software components.  On the hardware side, there are very small buttons and plugs for the associated equipment (e.g., printers, speakers, external drives, etc.) that can be difficult to see and manipulate by seniors.  This implies that regular support will be required for this group as usage increases.

Likewise, software usually entails a learning curve and what is intuitive to the younger generation is not necessarily so for the elderly.  While drop-down menus and the like are commonplace and only require secondary thought for all but the novice user that has grown up in the digital age, such navigation procedures can be daunting for others.  While some software products are moving away from drop-down menus and more toward a “tabs orientation” (for example, Office 2007), such a layout is not necessarily less complex for any user.  There typically remain hundreds of options, even in basic internet browsing or email software.  Additionally these programs are not static, as continual upgrades and updates are pushed and eventually required for users.

A focus on continual education and personalized support becomes ever more important.