Designing for the elderly could be considered as a hard task. Designers are usually not elderly and knowing how a product would be perceived could be considered a not so easy task. But the results of such a task could be highly rewarding as they directly impact on somebody’s life quality. Even more, usually designing for the elderly means designing for everyone. I show here some products designed keeping in mind the needs of the elderly.
Telephones are always a problem
Elderly people seem to be perfect victims for most home telephones and cellphones. They are difficult to use and they offer a lot of functions that many don’t understand how to find. But telephones are devices with a lot of importance to people, specially during emergencies.
Some companies have been designing telephones for the elderly, for example Doro. Big buttons and limited functions make the following phone a hit for those looking for simplicity. I find the possibility of writing the names on the same phone a great improvement for the older ones.
Navigating through menus on a tiny screen is a problem for a lot of people. Many get lost and don’t understand how to select, scroll or go back to the beginning. Interaction designers at Emporia, like at Doro, have been having this in mind and add a memory help notebook directly on the phone. Note that the notebook is all the time facing the user (and not in the back of the headset like in many home phones).
Functionality over style?
Designs for the elderly tend to be ugly: huge buttons, huge letters on a huge screen and terrible colors. But designing for the elderly is designing for all and if the designer is able to produce something appealing to everybody the product could be probably sold to a larger number of people.
The Deutsche Telekom released a home telephone that was initially thought to target the elderly. Not surprisingly a lot of young families are buying the phone. It has big numbers but they still look nice, it has fast dialing buttons and a paper notebook on the charging base.
Again, less digital menus
Something that people are requesting is to have more physical buttons. The Deutsche Telekom placed the answering machine controls on the charging station to make the listening of new messages easier.
That need for adding features
This telephone is including a flashlight and a radio, each function with its own button. Design research might have been revealed that those are important features for elderly people. But they also seem to be there just because it was possible to add something else. A dedicated button for a radio, do we really need that on a cell phone? Is that going to improve the user experience?