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Digital design for an ageing society

Spurr, Ashley (2015) Digital design for an ageing society. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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An ageing population and the progression of technology is the context for this practice-led research project. Through studying the relationship between older people and technology the research’s primary aim is to explore computer interactions aimed at older people. An inquisitive visual design practice was proposed to help stimulate debate and examine the effectiveness of design for health and wellbeing in a digital context. Many difficulties surrounding older people and their relationship with technology were identified during this research. As well as the obvious physical disabilities such as reduced mobility, dexterity issues and reduced eyesight, other issues less apparent include reduced memory, stereotyping and isolation. A reluctance to adopt new technologies, and in some cases avoid them altogether was identified in this demographic grouping as a significant problem too. The practice element of the thesis incorporates the design of an iPad app prototype, which uses food as a vehicle to facilitate the research by investigating for example: typography, colour and layout. The design process is informed by findings from a literature review coupled with a heuristic approach to interaction design. Two qualitative focus groups were conducted with a variety of computer users and non-users. Participants discussed their relationships with computers and how they are perceived. They also gave responses after testing the app prototype and completed a questionnaire based on focus group activities. The results from both sessions concluded that the majority of older people are interested in computers and what they have to offer, but often find it difficult to know where to begin. The importance of patience and consistency when introducing an app to older people was also observed. Some participants were frustrated by inconsistent user interfaces. As a result a set of accessible guidelines is suggested to engage with designers, policy makers and service providers.

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