Do stereotypes of older people affect how digital technology is designed? A team of researchers found that ageism has the potential to influence design in negative ways. However, co-design partnerships not only overcame the affect of ageism, it was also likely to produce technologies that are needed, wanted and used.
Ageism can have a detrimental role in how digital technologies are designed. Participating with older people in the design process has the additional benefit of countering stereotypes.
Image shows a group of older people on a desert camping expedition.
Older people said the “ultimate partnership” in co-designing is to be involved from the beginning through to the end of the design process. Sharing control over design decisions was an important part of the process. They are more than informants – they are equals who have valuable contributions.
The researchers noted that although this vision of co-design is shared by designers, it is not always the case in practice.
Image shows older people working together on a workshop question.
Older people in the study also said that ageism emerges in implicit and explicit language about ageing. And ageist images can influence the design process. Consequently, the researchers say it is important to view the diversity of older people.
It’s about co-design
How and when to involve older people in digital design is also important. Understanding co-design with older people has the potential for avoiding insufficient prototyping, biases and errors in the design process.
The title of the article is, An “ultimate partnership”: Older persons’ perspectives on age-stereotypes and intergenerational interaction in co-designing digital technologies.
From the abstract
There is a gap between the ideal of involving older persons throughout the design process of digital technology, and actual practice.
Twenty-one older people participated in three focus groups. Results showed ageism was experienced by participants in their daily lives and interactions with the designers during the design process. Negative images of ageing were pointed out as a potential influencing factor on design decisions. Nevertheless, positive experiences of inclusive design pointed out the importance of “partnership” in the design process.
Participants defined the “ultimate partnership” in co-designing as processes in which they were involved from the beginning, iteratively, in a participatory approach. Such processes were perceived as leading to successful design outcomes, which they would like to use, and reduced intergenerational tension.