Designing Displays for Older Adults (Human Factors & Aging Series)

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  1. NAE Website - Designing In-Vehicle Technologies for Older Drivers
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  3. About the Series
  4. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 53rd Annual Meeting

Venous laboratory studies are available that detail changes with age in the performance of spe- cific muscle groups as measured by dynamometer, and these findings have important implication for the performance of job activities Stoudt, smce may tasks more lifting and carrying or ret quite stamina and endurance. Currently, we have general knowledge suggesting that these types of tasks may not be well suited for some older people, but we do not have detmied information on their actual performance of such tasks.

This finding implies that older adults will be at a disadvantage if tasks require quick decision or rapidly paced activities. However, data Tom induce trial studies suggest that older people are not generally employed in such jobs e. The siowing-with-age phenomenon is highly significant in today's society, which is becoming increasingly automated. Since computers have the capability of controlling the rate of information flow, they allow tasks that were traditionally unpaced to become Maine paced.

However, computer meth- ods Night be used to merease the flexibility of task pacing, thereby reducing, rather than increasing, the detrimental interactions with aging. Such information is relevant both to apprm priate job placement of older workers and to proper redesign of tasks and equipment. Czaja has emphasized the importance of determining the extent to whim decreased response time can be compensated for by practice and experience or job redesign.

For some tasks a decline in speed may be offset by experience or extensive practice, but such compensation may incur a cost. The elderly tend to be more cautious during task performance, emphasizing correct decisions and precision in their work. Tight external control of tasks would tend to defeat these compensatory strategies, thereby increasing the perceived de- mands of the task. The relationship between age aIld attentional capacity is not yet clear.


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According to the Attention deficit hypothesize Hunt and Hertzog, , attentions capabilities decline with age, and complex tasks that demand attention show more aggregated decline than simple tasks. However, Wickens, Braune, and Stokes suggest that support for this hypothesis is mixed. Nevertheless, an impor- tant conclusion of Wickens et at. Their data are relevant to many types of work tasks, such as those found in aviation, computer use, and managerial activities.

It Anti be useful, however, to examine the manifestation of attention effects for. There are substantial data medicating that spatial mem- ory declines with age. Older adults also have difficulty proce - mg complex or confusing stimuli and are more likely to experience interference from irrelevant or surplus information.

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For many tasks, environmental interventions, such as altering the level of ilinmination, may minimize the age-related effects of declimog torsion and perception. Another area in which insufficient research has been conducted is in the trait ing of older workers. Severers investigators e.

To date, there are only limited data available on task- specific training strategies that are appropriate for older learners and that benefit people of all age groups. This is predominantly because the more complex a cognitive task, the greater the average deterioration with age. We c" anticipate more elderly people oh orating automobiles Ed a growing number of people who will need to use public transportation.

Problems of restricted mobility are common Hong older adults, and their rate of tragic accidents is high. These facts powt to the need for applying human factors tech- niques to the study of transportation for an aging population. Ret search efforts should center around understanding exactly why older people hare difficulty driving; how changes in vision, cognition, and psychomotor skills contribute to these difficulties; and how these problems con be remedied through car and roadway design, prom thetics, driver trnining' and public policy.

We also need information about how trains, subways, buses, airplanes, and terminals should be designed and managed to accommodate the needs of the elderly. The number of older drivers con U. As even more people move into old age, particularly the younger cohort of women who are likely to drive, the proportion of older persons on the road Anti increase greatly. Driving is the most common form of transportation for adults over Unfortunately, on a mileage-driven basis, they are disprm portionately at risk for accidents.

Figure 2 sumunarizes the accident characteristics of older drivers. Specific perceptual, psychomotor, cognitive, social, and physica-1 factors, as well as other factors including location, time of day, and type of vehicle, Al interact to produce a unique accident profile for the elderly driver, which will need to be determined by human factors research. For example, the most com- mon vision tests used in licensing have little predictive power. Discerning associations between vision and-driver performance is further complicated in the case of older drivers.

In addition to the visual changes that are inevitable with age, there are differences in other variables, such as psychomotor speed and timing, vigilance, and attention, and in driving conditions, such as types of road,. Convictions: a. Rates decrease with age. Accidents: a. Rates decrease with age until about 70 and then increase. At age 75 rates per mile are as high as for teenagers.

Drwing Faults of Older Dryers: a. Slower speeds. At intersections. In daylight, in good weather, and an urban setting. Multivehicle rather than single vehicle. Merging or changing lanes, leaving from a parked position. The following discussion will summarize what is known about how these variables influence driving behaviors and will suggest areas where additional research is needed. Severe fielc! Central Movement. Glare Sensitivity. A sununary of Ecus!

Stanford Seminar - Designing for Older Adults: Usability Considerations for Real Users

In the human foveal-focal type of visual system, acuity is only. The visual system did not evolve for driving, in which important objects often appear at may Ogles. For this reason research on the extent of visual field and visual search ability with moving stimuli would likely yield better predictors of driving performance than the current tests of acuity.

By assessing the visibility of objects varying in size, the contrast sensitivity function CSF appears to profile a more sensitive statement of spatial vision abilities than does simple acuity. However, the diagnostic value of the CSF for such tasks h" yet to be validated by research. Hills has reported that older drivers me likely to undereats ate the angular precocity of high-speed vehicles, and Henderson and Burg have shown that the angular motion threshold correlates tenth accident involvement at least in younger subjects.

It affects the ability to detect vehicles or pedestrians on the highway and road markers or signs. The data indicate that effective visual field size is reduced in old age e. Early investigations showed little relationship between visual field and accident rate e. To compound the difficulty, over half of those with vu field loss reported that they were unaware of it. A recent simulation study Scialfa et al. Dark Adaptation Another aspect of visual functioning that may be critical to driving performance, and that declines with age, is dark adaptation.

The literature suggests that older individuals do not adapt as weD to lowered leveb of ill nation as do younger adults. This may explain why it is especisily difficult for older people to Ante at night, under low lever of illumination. Perhaps some of the problems associated with the loss in adaptation abilities could be alleviated by changing highway illumination, car headlights, or automobile control panels or by driver training that emphasizes better compensatory strategies.


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These are areas to which human factors research could make significant contributions. Evidence suggests that visual search effectiveness is frequently imp aired in -older persons Rackoff, , especially if the display requires the processing of unfamiliar stimu- lus configurations Prude and Hoyer, such as plight occur in environments new to the driver. In fact, for certain types of accidents and for drivers over 50, visual search pattern does appear to relate to accident involvement Shmar, On an optimistic note, Sekuler and BaD also found that even modest practice significantly reduced the error rate for older subjects.

On the face of it, tasks such as this, in which the observer must respond to a stimulus embedded in a more complex scene, would seem to be a better approximation of the visual demands of driving arid other daily tasks than are the measures that have commonly been used, such as clinically measured. However, this contention should be tested through further investigation.

The actual level at which problems of illumination occur for people of different ages across different tasks e. One element of such a research program might be to determine the extent to which task performance can be ether ced by changes in lighting conditions. Beyond some minimum level the quality of illumination e. For example, older people tend to be much more disadvantaged by susceptibility to glare e.

Although Burg did not observe a relationship between glare recovery and safety record, it seems reasonable to suggest that the contrast reduction effects of glare could be severe for older persons under conditions of reduced visibility e. For any given light source the amount that ends up as glare wiD be. The spectral characteristics of light may also be important in determining visibility arid, therefore, the visual acuity of older people. Additional study will be necessary to accurately amess the impact of the spectral characteristics of light on specific transportation task performance, such as scene recognition, target detection, and sign, marker, and instrument reading.

In the operation calf moving vehicles these characteristics also determine how much response distance is provided the operator. Although the 2. Even if visibility were not at msue, the relative sIowne" of older operators In response speed and problem solving in such circumstances might well call for a longer minimum perception-reaction time interval.

This msue might best be addressed by research that assesses the response adequacy of very. However, the eject of such delineation or naturalistic cues on the performance of older drivers has yet to be investigated. Psychomotor Factors Id addition to visual factors, psychomotor skills are also irnpor- tant to driving behavior. Reaction time is a critical component of driving.

The driver does not control either the speed of other vehicles or the sudden appearance of a pedestrian, but he or she still must respond appropriately. Furthermore, the length of time that visual information is present e. Human factors research in this area would prey sumably include task analyses of characteristic transportation tasks.

Older drivers are less likely to drive at night, perhaps in response to the difficulties they have under conditions of low illumination. These responses may be, at least in part, attempts to compensate for their diminished response speed. Presumably, older pedestrians are also capable of making age-related compensations. Although the extent to which this and other approaches can increase the safety and mobility of older drivers, trav- elers, or pedestrians h" yet to be determined, retraining represents a promusing avenue of research.

We need to know more about com- pensations, how they interact with basic age changes, and the degree to which such strategies can be effectively taught. Current transportation systems seem to be problematic for the elderly Carp, , and data indicate, for example, that older people frequently have difficulty getting to such places as grocery stores or doctors' offices Czaja et al. A task. This research should not be restricted to automobiles, buses, tzmns, "d airplanes but should also include walkways, stairs, execrators, art d escalators.

These are only a few of the are" that need human factors attention. There are clear and pressing gaps in our knowledge of age differ- ences in the performance of tasks related to transportation. In addition, there has been some work In the area of perception and comprehension of text and, to a lemer extent, interaction with Engage system. Most of this work has been conducted in the laboratory with few real-world.

The topic of communication is of critical importance Once older people often have restricted mobility and thus need to rely on comrnuDicatiork technologies to provide finks to the outside world. However, currently we know little about the ability of older people to use these technologies. The common lo" of auditory acuity that occurs with age is ret ferred to as presbycusis. Currently a large portion of the elderly population 75 percent of those 75 and over supers from this disorder to some degree.

Research clearly medicates that speech intelligibility declines progressively after age Even if elderly listeners are tested under ideal conditions, a quiet environment with degraded speech, there is a small but measurable decline in speech comprehension. For examples although presbycusis would appear to make one especially vulnerable to poor-quality and otherwise unfavorable noise environ- ments frequently encountered, we lack detailed knowledge of their effect on the ability of older people to interact tenth telephone or speech syntheses systems.

As is the case with hearing, we need a better understanding of how changes In visual perception affect older people's daily functioning. Possible areas of impact include reading newsprint and signs and the ability to interact with television and computer technology. The computer represents a potentially very useful too! It can be used for communication via electronic mm] networks, for education, as a memory aid, and as an information source.

However, this is only true if systems are designed such that they can be used by older people. For example, although there has been a great deal of research examining visual functioning and computer use, age has been largely neglected as a variable of interest. Important questions for human factors research center around character size, shape, and color; amount of contrast; and appropriate leveb of illumination for perforr:iing these types of tasks. Research on ways to circumvent these problems will then become the appropnate and subsequent focus of human factors research.

The fatality rate, length of hospitalization, and days of disability and restricted activity due to injury are greater for older than for younger adults. In addition, safety and security are important with respect to older individuab' sense of control over their environments and their continued ability. Finally, the fear of accidents or victim- ization may limit the activity choices of older people, causing them to modify or restrict their Iif - styles.

In , People from this age group who have incurred an accidental injury have, on average, 2. S times the total number of days of restricted activity per injury and 2. In addition, older accident victims typically have a poorer recovery and a greater Bum ceptibility to complications following injury than do younger people Sterns et al.

These data demonstrate the magnitude of the aging and accident problem. It is clear from the literature that the ability to live independently is critically important to older people. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 5 to 10 percent of the population in developed countries suffers significant in- jury In domestic accidents. The elderly, children, and housewives are overrepresented in home accidents, no doubt redecting their greater exposure. For example, older individuals me more likely to live in old and substandard housing, to have strong medications In the home, to be users of various medical devices, and to use manual.

They are the leading cause of Al home fatalities. For this group, deaths from falls surpass deaths from transportation- related accidents. The most hazardous products were floors add floor coverage and stairs and steps, which accounted for 41 percent of all injuries related to these 49 products. Other hazardous domestic products were foods, chairs, bed, ladders, lawn mowers, bathtubs, and showers.

Falls were identified as the most prevalent type of accident. Falb that occur outdoors are typically attributed to wet or slippery surfaces or uneven terrain.

NAE Website - Designing In-Vehicle Technologies for Older Drivers

Burns me also common among older people. S Sheets or pillowcases 2, S Benches and table saws 17, We believe the challenge comes in part from the sheer number of articles available. Design and usability evaluation are fast-paced activities with little time allowed for literature review. Many professionals do not have the time to sift through thousands of papers to determine: a which are related to the question at hand and b whether the design or study has merit.

Another reason may be that academic papers typically target other academics and may not stress the application or design implications of their findings. Finally, another barrier to knowledge transfer may be that academic publishing moves slower than the design and usability industry. The time it takes for journal articles to reach the audience, from submission time, can be months to years. As such authors may be loathe to nail down concrete design guidelines opting for the conceptual and general but often vague and hard to implement because their research may be published a year in the future.

This book distills decades of published aging research most relevant to the design of displays. We believe this book offers a benefit beyond individual research studies. The first half of the book is a primer of age-related changes in cognition, perception, and behavior. Theory can be used to organize examples from the literature into meaningful principles that improve understanding. Using theory backed up by evidence provides an understanding of why we see certain problems with many displays and often predicts solutions.

This understanding surpasses an individual interface and provides the practitioner with ways to plan for older users on multiple display types. We then apply these theories in real design exercises. In all chapters we provide specific guidelines for display examples to bridge theory and practice.

One can easily imagine how a physically fit 55 year old tri-athlete could out-perform a 34 year old in a marathon, personified by Cliff Young, the sixty-one year old winner of the Sydney ultra-marathon miles. Similarly, with respect to cognitive capacity, there is wide variety in capabilities and limitations that are linked with age.

The issue is further complicated by the sheer variability in any given ability as we get older. Generally, for younger and middle age groups, capabilities vary but this variability widens as people get older: the older adult age group defined as those aged 65 and over are more different from each other than people in other age groups differ from persons in their own age group. One way to think about the older user is via their familiarity with current technologies and interface conventions.

Both culture and the physical aging process play a role. Such dual causes for the same symptom exemplify why designs should be carefully analyzed as to the difficulties they produce. Another way to think about the older user is by the appearance of perceptual and cognitive changes that we usually associate with aging.

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This may include far-sightedness, the need for bifocals or reading glasses, hearing aids, and an increased reliance on notes rather than memory for everyday tasks. An understanding of these changes and the effects they can have on display use is critical, because these changes often interact with each other. Thus, understanding a single age-related change, such as vision, can lead to designs that adversely affect other senses and cognitions such as the high working memory requirements of audio displays or creating the need to scroll larger text, which can require precise movement.

Technology represents advances in knowledge that change the way humans perform tasks. Ideally, technology will make the task easier, more efficient, safer, or perhaps more pleasurable. Unfortunately, new technologies can sometimes make a task more difficult, slower, dangerous, or perhaps more frustrating. Older adults interact with a variety of technologies in the course of their daily activities and thus products should be designed to be used by people of varying ages. In this article, we provide an overview of what psychology has to offer to the design of technology—from understanding what people need, to identifying their preferences for design characteristics, and to defining their capabilities and limitations that will influence technology interactions.

We identify how research in the field of psychology and aging has advanced understanding of technology interactions and how research on technology interactions can inform theories of aging. Design for aging involves understanding the unique capabilities and limitations of older adults; identifying their needs, preferences, and desires for technology in their lives; and involving them in the design process.

Older adults interact with a variety of technologies in the course of their daily activities. They also reported frustrations, failures, and coping strategies—this is where psychological science can have an impact. Psychology has much to offer to the design of technology—from understanding what people need, to identifying their preferences for design characteristics, and to defining their capabilities and limitations that will influence technology interactions.

Our goal in this article is to identify how research in the field of psychology and aging has advanced understanding of technology interactions. We describe technology use by older adults to elucidate myths and realities.

About the Series

Finally, we introduce the future—technologies on the horizon that are very different from desk-top computers. These developments must be informed by psychological science if they are going to improve the lives of older adults. Throughout we highlight future research needs. Age does not necessarily limit the number of products used. The assumption that older adults wish to avoid new technology is largely a fallacy. However, studies of technology use, attitudes, and abilities do show that older adults are less likely to use technology compared with younger adults Czaja et al.

For example, from a list of 17 common technologies, older adults reportedly used an average of 12 of them compared with an average of 15 reportedly used by younger adults. Moreover, the technology's perceived usefulness is a key variable in standard models of technology acceptance as its importance has been shown repeatedly for younger adults e. Evidence suggests, however, that when there is a perceived benefit of use for a particular type of technology, older adults will use it.

Older adults reported using a variety of technologies and had many opinions about them. Participants were asked about technology use at home, work, and in health care. Technology was defined as electronic or digital products and services.

Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 53rd Annual Meeting

In Mitzner et al. The goal of research on aging and technology is to replace the age variable with an understanding of the source of the age-related differences. In other words, chronological age may be predictive of usage patterns, difficulties, or preferences, but it is not an explanatory variable—it does not explain why the differences occur. Consequently, the research goal is to identify mediating variables such as working memory, perceptual ability, training, or experience.

These variables are often well studied in the general area of psychology and aging; hence the fundamental research provides the basis for hypotheses about the most likely mediating variables. Moreover, evaluating the role of these variables in the context of technology use provides a test-bed for understanding generality of theories of aging see Charness, This model builds from ideas proposed by Lawton and Nahemow that successful performance depends on the demands imposed by the environment relative to the capabilities of the individual i.

Likewise, successful design of technology will depend on the match between the capabilities of the user and the demands imposed by the system as well as by the task being performed e. An additional important dimension is the context of use that may impede or support successful interactions e. This model is not meant to be a predictive model but rather to illustrate the range and type of variables that must be considered in the study of technology interactions for older adults.

The importance of matching technology characteristics with user needs can be illustrated with the example of multimedia. It is sometimes assumed that individuals will learn better from a multimedia presentation of information e. However, McLaughlin, Rogers, Sierra, and Fisk reported that for certain tasks, the video information can actually interfere with learning. Moreover, the match between the characteristics of the technology and the learner's goals was more critical for older compared with younger adults. The literature on the psychology of aging provides much guidance for design—the challenge is in the translation.

A concerted effort must be placed on bringing relevant psychological literature in a usable form to the design community. When done properly, the effort can have a real impact on practice. For example, the U. National Institute on Aging National Institutes of Health developed a tip sheet for designing senior-friendly Web sites that was specifically based on research on aging, cognition, and computer use.

Fundamental understanding of age-related changes in motor control, perceptual function, and cognitive ability was translated into design guidelines for input devices, output devices, human—computer interfaces, and training programs. Clearly, the years of focused research on understanding aging have direct implications for design and in turn the safety, health, and well-being of older adults.

A third example involves the use of data from research on aging to estimate parameters that will enable modeling and prediction of age-related performance differences. For example, Jastrzembski and Charness estimated performance variables such as eye-fixation duration, movement time, verbal working memory span, and the power law of practice for younger and older adults, based on the research literature.

They then successfully used this information in a model that well-predicted age-related performance differences in the use of a cell phone. This approach was quite valuable but also revealed areas where insufficient information was available for parameter estimation and more research is needed e. For example, search engines often allow use of Boolean operators to constrain searches e. Technology can be a successful form of environmental support; as illustrated with an in-vehicle navigation system that used a synthetic voice to augment instructions displayed onscreen and thereby improved performance of older adults more than younger adults Dingus et al.

Despite advances in technology design and efforts to make technologies usable and useful, older adults remain slower to adopt new technologies and more likely to report anxiety about using new systems or frustrations when using technologies e. Note that usability problems are not restricted to older adults—younger adults also report frustrations and difficulties using technologies. However, it is generally the case that improving design to enhance usability for older adults improves the usability for other user groups as well.

Where do existing technologies fail and what do future technologies need to do? Research efforts have addressed three facets of improving technologies used by older adults: a identifying the source of usability difficulties for current technologies, b assessing the adequacy of current training and instruction materials, and c understanding the needs of older adults not met by current technologies.

Together these efforts will enhance use of current devices and systems, provide guidance for refining future iterations of those systems, and stimulate ideas for next generations of product design. Empirical studies have identified the nature of the usability problems older adults have with input devices e. These studies have provided a wealth of data about the nature of the difficulties older users have and the age-related changes in movement control, perception, cognition, and attitudes that are predictive of such changes.

Understanding age-related capabilities and limitations should also guide the usability assessments themselves.


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  8. For example, cognitive impairments may impede understanding task instructions, hearing impairments may impede comprehending auditory feedback, and visual impairments may impede reading information on a computer screen for further discussion, see Fisk et al. The next steps are to learn more about use of technologies by older adults in context; for example, to assess long-term usage of technologies to understand how or if they support everyday activities.

    Similarly, direct observation of technology use difficulties for a wide-range of user-experience levels would be informative about the nature of errors that are made under various circumstances. These studies will enable us to refine our model of aging and technology use to guide training and design. How do user preferences for training methods interact with the success of training Mitzner et al. How should multimedia training be developed to capitalize on age-related strengths and minimize the effects of age-related deficits in perceptual and cognitive functioning Fisk et al.

    These are just a few of the questions that will benefit from systematic study of psychological mechanisms such as working memory limitations and selective attention deficits that mediate the benefits of training for younger and older adults. Designers must develop technologies for which there is a need. For example, if technologies are to be successful in supporting memory needs of older adults, the technology must be designed with such specific needs in mind.

    Consider the case of technology to support memory. In self-reports of memory functioning in large-sample studies, older adults reported various types of memory difficulties e. For example, they reported sometimes having difficulty remembering names, faces, appointments, and phone numbers; they also perceived that when they did forget such things it was a problem.

    Moreover, Boron, Rogers, and Fisk found that even high-functioning older adults reported forgetting to take their medications with a sufficient frequency for it to be considered a problem.