Years full of life
or just life full of years?
The saying that 60 is the new 50 reflects one of the biggest changes in modern society. The population as a whole is getting older at a faster rate than ever. We are all expected to live longer than our grandparents. Prior to the 1900s, average life expectancy was best estimated at thirty years of ages across all major regions of the world.
The other big change is how families are fragmented due to work, studies, temporary assignments or the lure of retirement destinations. Fortunately, a plethora of technology choices help us keeping in touch with our loved ones, old and young. Computers, pads, smartphones, smartwatches and even our television is filled with apps that help us to connect with others. But for some reason online participation is declining at ages between 65 – 73 and even stronger in the 75+ population.
I believe that designers are not focusing enough on thinking about user friendliness for the older market. When products are created for the elderly, they tend to be ugly and an unwanted signal fragility. Imagine if you would need a walker or a cane. I think you would resist using it, because it is seen as a medical device. Once upon a time, a cane was considered stylish. My dad, now 85 and with MCI does not want to use a mobile phone or smart wrist watch that is clearly designed for seniors. He says that it would label him as old in a negative way.
Every designer and marketer in the world will someday join this evergrowing segment. Maybe we should all imagine how the world looks and feels when the world looks blurred, the crickets stay quiet and touching your toes is a sweet memory. It must be possible to make items for the elderly that they want to wear with pride and stylish enough that a person of any age would want one.
Technology products that are challenging in their complexity, should still be easy and intuitive to use. Personally, I do not recall many user interfaces, that did not require a deep dive into the manual before use.
Any product or service, should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. The 7 Principles of Universal design do apply to the highest degree for designing products, services and environments for older adults. Getting them interested in technology requires framing it in terms of how it can add value to their lives; to keep on living independently add to their wellbeing and stay in touch with friends and family.
This blog post was written by Peter Keränen
Design enthusiast, health writer and oldest son.
”Dad was my first hero”