Involving older people in design processes

Collage of different people and productsUniversal Design is promoted well in Singapore as Siam Imm Goh reported in her keynote presentation at the 2016 Australian UD Conference. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement and user-led design is one way to achieve this. Older adults are described in this article as “extraordinary users” and also “lead users” – that is users who can lead designs that result in better designs for everyone, particularly in product design. The abstract below explains more. You can find out more about lead-users from the Norwegian Inclusive Design website (in English).

Abstract: The concept of Universal Design has received increasing appreciation over the past two decades. Yet, there are very few existing designs that cater to the needs of extraordinary users who experience some form of physical challenge. Previous work has shown promising results on involving users with physical challenges as lead users – users who have the potential to identify needs that could be latent among the general population. It has also been shown that older adults can act as such lead users. They can help design universal product ideas that satisfy both older adults and the general population. In this paper we build on this and examine if involving older adults in the design phase can result in universal products, products preferred by both older adults and the general population over a current option. Eighty-nine older adult participants and thirty-four general population participants took part in the study. Products were redesigned and prototyped based on the needs of older adults and tested among both populations. Results show that, although older adults and the general population did share certain needs and demands, the majority of older adults had needs and demands that were different from those of the general population. However, even though the needs differed between the populations, on average 89% of the general population participants preferred products designed based on design needs expressed by older adults over the current option. This provides further evidence supporting the use of older adults in designing products for all.

A Lead User Approach to Universal Design – Involving Older Adults in the Design Process”, by Sujithra Raviselvam, Kristin L Wood, Katja Holtta-Otto, Victoria Tam, Kamya Nagarajan.