Monday, October 19, 2009

Hurdles and Obstacles for Seniors

There are some obstacles that can affect some senior’s technology adaption that website designers need to be aware of in order to attract the aging generation.

As I got older, I have noticed that even my vision is not as good as it was when I was younger. In fact, there are many adults that are in the same situation as I am. In order to compensate for my vision problems, I tend to want to make the font size larger on the computer screen in order to make it easier for me to read. Likewise, what about trying to use an I Phone or blackberry to text or read items from the web. These can be very frustrating for people with cataracts, glaucoma, dry eyes, and farsightedness and glare sensitivity. The creators of web pages need to think about the size of the screen, light and contrast in order to make it better for elder eyes to see.

In addition, hearing is another problem for seniors who are hearing impaired or uses hearing aids. Tones and audio controls need to be louder for seniors with these conditions. I found the Jitterbug phone is an inexpensive option for seniors that are hearing impaired. This cell phone is hearing aid compatible with a padded earpiece to reduce noise, which is an excellent feature. Accordingly, many devices designers are now able to give seniors gadgets and products to enable them to use them without the hassles.

Mobility issues are another concern. Interactive controls need to accommodate peoples hand coordination and mobility in order to use all the functions and the task they want to perform using these smaller and smaller devices. Even operating a mouse or using a laptop with the keypad that is so close together makes it difficult for seniors to use computers.

The last obstacle that seniors have to get over is cognitive, which addresses their diminished long and short term memory. Since seniors tend to read more slowly and forget some details that are stored in their short term memory, such as, which links they visited before. Therefore, web designers should use a color change feedback to remind them that they visited that site before. I feel that this would make it easier for them to keep track of where they were and not waste time revisiting a site that they were on before.

As I see my father aging, I realize that he has to be shown how to do something many times before he will be able to do it by himself and he is also becoming more forgetful. At my suggestion, he started taking computer courses at the senior center and he is now able to search the web for things that interest him. I don’t know how far he will advance in using this technology, and I don’t think he will join Face book but, there are other things he can do to keep up with the ever changing technology world. Hence, there is a need to serve seniors and designers are just starting to scratch the surface of addressing these design issues.

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