Age Barrier: A Difficulty to Provide Equal Design Value
Everybody has a fear to be aging in their deepest thought. It’s more completely a sense of reluctance of growing old days after days. There is a belief that being aging makes us less productive and useful. Not all of these beliefs are completely true, but our capability to do the usual activities is decreased. Older people may seem to be more vulnerable and weak to compete and catch this fast-paced world. The modern era was full of technological advancement, and inventions may struggle the elder to adapt.
In the digital world, older people may have difficulties catching-up with the product and design we have provided. To pursue the user’s satisfaction, we must provide the product and design with the functionality yet attractive. Almost all of our designs are used to fulfill user needs. With thousands of creative ideas, we pour the fullest of ourselves to meet their expectation. But how about the older people? Aren’t these seniors also our users and consumers too? We may forget about these people also utilizing our product and design too. But in reality, almost all of the seniors have more difficulty consuming and understanding the point we want to deliver. They may also feel overwhelmed with their digital surroundings.
From there arose the barrier that separates our design values from those older people. The design is actually used to deliver meanings so the users and consumers can gain information about the things we offer. But the elder wouldn’t be able to make it out. What is actually the reason behind this age barrier that makes us think twice again to provide eligible products and designs to them?
- Technology Gap
The existence of the internet supports the rise of technological advancement. It brings more and more valuable technology inventions that ease our tasks. Simplified our way of life, emerge new jobs and facilities among us. The internet also brought us the digital world we’re actually surfing on, just as you read this right now. You won’t be able to read someone’s article right on your gadget screen decades ago. Unless you we’re actually read it in a newspaper or a magazine. But now, it only takes your internet data to reach any information you needed. Technology makes it easier for us to look after our curiosity about anything. But for the older people, it’s doubtful.
Why elder people can’t just follow nowadays’s standard of internet usage? It’s effortless. Just clicking or tapping on the search engine to find anything they want. In reality, older people are just too far left behind with recent technological improvements. Senior with the age range of 55–65 were actually born decades ago, between the 1950s till 1960s. They are born in the post Worldwar 2 era with a minimal source of technology. Radio transmission and black and white television are examples of technology representation from that era. With limited technology, they were stuck into more manual things rather than reach the new ones.
The rate of computer illiterate among the elder also still high now. At the same time, computers are the main reason why the internet and digital are being available today. The elder could learn about computer things as they still able to explore more. But in reality, the time differences between their youth age and today’s environment make it hard to adapt and make a big technology gap. Their willingness and ability to learn something new also decreased at their age.
- Lack of perceived needs
Design is provided to deliver meanings to the user and customers so they could catch the offer given. With the digital environment increasing rapidly over time, the demand for different kinds of products and design needs increases. The designers must be able to split their heads to make a more comprehensive design in many creative ways. The market need and demand could drive the design trends and shape the future of the digital environment.
But for the elders, it’s not the same anymore as we compete with the others to achieve the most innovative, attractive, yet functional design to gain more global users' attention. The elders won’t be catching up with it because it was out of their necessity bubbles.
Take an example from a restaurant advertisement, with today’s trend of promotional discounts and cashback that flooded the FnB products on online delivery apps. It can attract more younger urbanized users and customers to engage the selling. The ads designs like digital carousels, banners, and flyers have held the key to attract them. The elders who don’t even have too many food necessities anymore will be useless. The elders may be more attracted to attend the food stalls in their neighborhood that they were already familiar with. Or they even cook for themself. They need to fulfill their hunger so they can sleep and rest well. Not pouring their money on a feeding-spree just because it was discounted and given a lot of cash back on digital payments. They are fewer consumerist people. Take and eat just what they need.
- Fear of the unknown
Older people had more strict and idealism that rooted in their minds for decades ago. They were raised in a non-internet era that has minimal access to information. The limitation makes them think from a more narrow perspective. If they don’t know anything about something, they will skip it. They may feel unsafe with some uncertain things around them—fear of something strange and new that could affect them negatively.
Their fear of the newer technology could drive them to avoid digital things. As they were unfamiliar with the internet, they may fear the deep and darkest side of it. Older people can’t take another risk for their own sake. Our digital products and design are not interesting enough for them anymore. They would skip it as they don’t understand what it stands for.
- Physically weaken
Growing old makes physical capability decreased as a human body have limitation. Getting old means our body strength becomes more weaken to do the usual tasks. This is why almost all older people commonly need helping tools to support their daily activities. Difficulties by difficulties came around and struggled them until the time come to be faced with only smiles and tears.
Losing sightseeing commonly happens when aging. The retina can’t hold light into its right position anymore. This why elder people having difficulty reading or watch something around them. Moreover, for seeing a particular design, we’ve provided for gadget screens. We know those screen resolutions are too small for older people. It just makes their visibility even worse if we persist in delivering our screen-sized design for them.
Elder people may struggle to understand our design value as they had a less clear vision. Because of this physical condition, it's hard for them to differentiate between one shape and another, the color difference, and the design composition we provided.
Our body strength may decrease while getting older. The muscles already losing the power to trigger the body parts to do the task. Older people usually need a helping tool to support their daily activities. Shaky hands and legs that not solid anymore to drive you to do something. Most older people are accompanied by their families just in case something bad happens to them accidentally.
Likewise, when these seniors are faced with digital things. They may find it difficult to utilize gadgets, which in fact, are electronic items that contain electricity. Their shaky hands couldn’t be forced to hold objects like this for too long. They may have injuries like burning skin or having a tingling sensation over their hand. They even struggled to hold the physical gadgets, moreover receiving any design value that already provided within.
- Hard to focus
As the physical strength decreased, elder people also slightly losing their capability to focus on something. It’s a condition when their brain can’t process things faster, like in their youth. They may have difficulty focusing on one subject as the impact of overtime distraction along with their age. They already faced many things in their life that makes too many distractions floating around their head.
When you provide a design with many functions at once, they may be baffled and struggled to reach what you want them interacting with. With the lack of focus ability, they won’t understand the value you parenthesized within the design.
- Hard to memorize
The human brain is already gifted with the capability to memorize anything that happens in life. Children, teens, and younger adults may have a more sharp mind that eases them to memorize things. But older people were slowly losing the ability to memorize things. Especially for older people with Alzheimer's or dementia, they even hard to remember their own names or family members.
The loss of memorizing ability is one of the decreased cognitive function effects. Older people may difficult to remember what kind of design you provided a month ago or even a week ago. For instance, elder people will forget how to use an online taxi app that just explained two days ago. That’s why the design value you have to deliver to them ends up useless because of this kind of condition.
- Irreplaceable Habit
They were living in their own timeline without digital products and design for too long. They already built some habit that sticks into their unconscious mind. Older people live through the decades with limited sources of technology that equally accessible to everyone. They become more independent and self-sufficient to do daily tasks.
For instance, grandmas willingly cook for a whole day just for preparing a family dinner. While the younger generations -especially millennials and gen Z, which completely familiar with digital being — would utilize the online restaurant delivery order or digital provider like uber eat for their dinner. Middle-aged and older people also have their own hobbies that become an irreplaceable habit, just like a middle-aged salaryman who would buy and read a newspaper while sipping on his cup of coffee in the morning. For years he would do this as his morning routine until it comes to the digital newspaper online. This man could open a gadget and browse news online. But in fact, he still loved to buy a printed newspaper to fulfill his morning routine.
Age barriers may complicate designers in making a useful yet functional design that is equally delivered for general users. But once again, we must redefine the design value and goals. For which market and target users, we make it? Is it already meet their needs? Or it just burdened them while utilizing it. Redefine, rethink, and explore more!
Contributor: Abdul Hamid