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Is Your Technology Senior Friendly?

Senior Living Strategy April 23, 2021

One only has to look at today’s smart technology, with small icons and often difficult-to-read typefaces, to see why seniors can get frustrated with it. Most technology firms don’t design products with seniors in mind, and yet 55 million seniors want technology optimized for them. 

Senior living communities that provide technology solutions to their residents successfully, make sure they are senior friendly. When they consider senior usability, adoption is higher and technology support needs are lower. 

With 52% of seniors over 75 experiencing vision loss, 50% of 85+ suffering cognitive impairment and nearly 25% of those aged 65 to 74, and 50% of those who are 75 and older living with disabling hearing loss, it’s important to consider the design of technology before introducing it to your residents. 

Understand the Age Group

To leverage technology, senior living communities need to analyze and understand the health conditions, lifestyles and typical problems of people over 55 so they can ensure any technology they offer will be easy to use and adopted. Use the following list to help you evaluate and make product selections for seniors.

  • It takes older adults longer to process information and to perform a task. For every second a young person takes to perform a task, it takes an older person 1.4 to 1.7 seconds to perform the same task. They also want to have more control over the process. 
  • When operating a technology device, older adults are more likely to slip up and perform actions they didn’t mean to. They are more likely to click a prominent button before thinking about what the button actually does.
  • Labels significantly improve icon usability, according to Nielsen Norman Group. When designing for seniors, make sure to use icons and words. 
  • Older adults view error messages as a personal failure. They often blame their own inadequacies and feel like they don’t understand or aren’t able to perform the action on their own.
  • Websites and online services that present one question or one topic per screen make it easier for older adults to follow

Incorporate Aids for the Visually Impaired 

These days, many products and services have online access and companion websites. In addition to understanding how older adults function, any technology assessment needs to take the needs of the visually impaired in mind. Whether or not your needs include website development, leveraging the ideas in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) helps ensure that your content is accessible.

  • Present content in an easily perceivable manner. Examples include offering alternatives to text, such as audio alternatives or assistive technology that allows sight-impaired individuals to perceive your content.
  • Make sure navigation is easy to operate. Offer keyboard accessibilities so users with disabilities can easily navigate and access content.
  • Make sure your content is easy to understand. Make content readable and predictable, and offer input assistance if needed.
  • Make sure your content can be interpreted by various devices and platforms. For example, you may want to ensure content is compatible with assistive technologies.

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Add Voice Commands

In addition to evaluating products with the visually impaired in mind, check to see if a product can be controlled by voice. Voice control is now present on more than one billion devices, and products that have incorporated voice control have made the device much easier for seniors to use.

Here are just a few examples of how voice controls are incorporated into today’s products:

  • Speech recognition systems used over the phone can identify words and phrases to help handle a problem before someone is connected to live support
  • Phones and televisions can help translate speech and turn it into text for people with speech and hearing disabilities
  • Voice can help document medical records as well as help search for medical records in various systems 
  • Voice commands can also be used to navigate some televisions, allowing a senior to change channels, increase volume or even record shows.

Increase Access for the Hearing Impaired

Hearing impaired seniors require also benefit from technology designed just for them. While voice control is rapidly being incorporated into products, the ADA has some useful guidelines for hearing-impaired communication.

The ADA guidelines include: 

  • Incorporating gestures and visual aids when offering speech-based content
  • Offering a pad and pencil, a word processor, or a typewriter to provide a way to exchange written notes.
  • Using teletypewriter (TTY) can be used to exchange written messages over the telephone.
  • Amplifying sound through an assistive listening system or device can improve communications.
  • Leveraging a sign language interpreter helps when speaking with a person who knows sign language.
  • Providing an oral interpreter trained to speech read (read lips), is another strategy. Note: Do not assume that speech reading will be effective in most situations. On average, only about one third of spoken words can be understood by speech reading.

Evaluating Every Day Technology

Since many technology products aren’t designed with seniors in mind, it’s up to community operators to evaluate how well new products meet the unique and different needs of seniors. Big button remotes, customizable television guides, and television solutions that can be controlled with voice are a good start. Life safety solutions that leverage lights and visual queues are also important. At the same time, engagement solutions should be easy to access, navigate and provide value beyond simply replacing existing community functionality. 

Your residents know that technology can help them stay connected to friends, family, the community and the ecosystem at large. The more your community does to adopt made-for-senior technology, the more likely your residents will adopt them quickly and leverage them to stay relevant and vital for years to come.  

Where do you go from here? Life, safety, entertainment and engagement options exist now. Look no further than Sentrics for all your senior-friendly solutions.