Designing Positive User Experiences to Encourage Older Adults’ Self-care
Authors: Ana Cristina Barbosa Medeiros
Abstract: User experience can be defined as the sum of responses elicited from the user by a succession of events that take place during the interaction with a device or system, where not only the users’ capabilities are considered, but also their needs and attitudes. Older users are more likely to make decisions based on emotion and past experiences, as their other capabilities decline due to the inevitable ageing of the body tissues. In a simplistic view, user’s capabilities can be divided into four components: the sensory level is related to the inputs from the environment, whilst cognitive and affective levels judge and mediate what the most appropriate physical output for an interaction should be, according to the context in which the overall user experience takes place. In young adults, these responses tend to happen almost simultaneously. With ageing, there is a natural decay of the sensory, cognitive and physical levels. The slow-down of sensory conduction speed and a decrease in the intensity of sensation translate into a partial awareness of the world around us. Cognitive decline impacts negatively on information processing which progressively takes longer. On top of that, motor abilities are compromised, and physical responses are delayed. The affective level, on the other hand, becomes a stronger component of users’ capabilities, compared to the other three levels. Gradually, it serves more and more as an aiding tool for decision making, prior to, and during user experience. However, unless a vigilant design process that addresses older adults’ requirements is in place, the consequences of sensory, cognitive and physical ageing result in a slow-paced, hesitant interaction and an unsatisfying user experience. User-centred design in healthcare should aim at realising the optimal embodiment of user requirements to deliver the best possible experience and encourage consistent adherence to health treatment or monitoring routines, especially in the home environment. The product has not only to be useful and usable; it also needs to be desirable in ways that transcend aesthetics. Its design has to communicate to users that the product matches their capabilities, meets their expectations, and provides obvious information about its utility. The ultimate goal is to help improve the physical and emotional aspects of older patients’ well-being by removing, as much as possible, any negative elements from the use process to facilitate an inviting, engaging and – why not – fulfilling experience. This work focuses on better understanding older adults’ needs, capabilities and attitudes, and emphasises the necessity to design for their inclusion by involving this user group in human factors activities throughout the medical device development process.
Keywords: medical devices for self-care, older users, user experience, human-centred design, inclusive design
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