Category Archives: aging

Almost Here: Designing Displays for Older Adults

After a long process and over a year of work, Anne’s and my book on user interface design for older adults is almost available!  The cover of our book has been finalized (shown below).  The book will be released September 21st, 2010 and will be available where fine books are sold or directly from our publisher CRC Press.

Price: $69.95, Cat. #: K10089, ISBN: 9781439801390, ISBN 10: 1439801398, Publication Date: September 21, 2010, Number of Pages: 232

We’ll give away a few copies of our book and in a future post provide an excerpt when we get permission.  Unfortunately, the book is not scheduled to be available in electronic format but we hope that will change. An ebook will also be available (thanks Peg!).

Here is our description of the book:

Features

  • Contains state-of-the-art aging research written in an accessible format
  • Includes four chapters of worked examples that put design suggestions into practice
  • Focuses on designing for the aging population
  • Explores the “hows” and “whys” of designing for an aging population

Summary

A distillation of decades of published research, this book is a primer on age-related changes in cognition, perception, and behavior organized into meaningful principles that improve understanding. It explores the complex set of mental and physical changes that occur during aging and that can affect technology acceptance, adoption, interaction, safety, and satisfaction. The authors apply these theories in real design exercises and include specific guidelines for display examples to bridge theory and practice. It opens the way for designing with an understanding of these changes that results in better products and systems for users in all life stages.

Online Banking Should Be Easier for Seniors

A new study has identified how poorly designed online and electronic banking is for older users and will seek to find remedies.

From the news article in www.theengineer.co.uk:

The new assistive technology developed by Newcastle and York researchers will be tried out by a variety of focus groups over 18 months.

Some ideas include a wallet shaped foldable display. One half would display recent transactions with dates and amounts, the other half your current balance, as a figure and an analogue quantity.

Monk said other assistive technology devices could mimic the ‘physicality’ of cash. This is important, he said, because many older people work in a ‘cash economy’ and are wary of ATM cards because there is no way to immediately see the amount of money being withdrawn.

From the comments section of the article, showing the need for this project:

I have an elderly relative who has arthritic hands. When trying to enter her pin number at the supermarket checkout, she cannot push the buttons on the keypad hard enough to make the number register. Could they be made more sensitive? Or perhaps replace the keypad with a touch screen? Or something else?

Here is a link to Andrew Monk’s homepage to stay tuned in for the results.

This news story was sent in by Darin Ellis of Wayne State University. Thanks, Darin!

Careers in Human Factors & Aging

A graduate student contacted me with questions about career paths for those of us in HF with an aging background.  This sounded like a great opportunity for discussion so I’m posting it here.  If you can contribute responses to any or all of these questions, please leave a comment!

I am giving a presentation on the Aging Technical Group [of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society] in my Human Factors Professional Issues course and the focus is on potential career options in this area. I am gathering information from past ATG newsletters and publications within HFES Proceedings in recent years.

I am emailing you to ask if you could provide any additional career-related information. Some questions that I thought might be relevant are listed below.

  1. What are the most common areas of research within human factors in aging?
  2. What are some of the largest changes in research trends within this area?
  3. What are the most common types of careers that individuals working in aging within the realm of human factors typically hold?
  4. What are some unexpected places that one may find hf aging professionals employed?
  5. Is there anything in particular that sets careers in aging apart from working within other areas of hf?
  6. Any other information you can provide about careers in this area

Also, if you could provide any additional suggestions for resources where I might find more information (other than what I listed above), I would very much appreciate it.

HF Graduate Programs: North Carolina State University

This is the second post in our 2-part look at some HF programs.  Rich’s post about Clemson’s program can be found here.

The psychology graduate program at NCSU in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.A, boasts eight faculty in the Human Factors and Ergonomics specialization. This is in addition to the faculty in our sister program in Industrial Engineering and related faculty in areas as diverse as Industrial Design and Education.  Graduates of the program can be found both in academia and industry (e.g., Virginia Tech faculty, IBM, HumanCentric, Dell).

A sampling of the kinds of research we do here:

  • Warnings – when are they appropriate, how to create them, how they can be misunderstood
  • Medication adherence – when do people share their prescriptions with others?
  • Methods of knowledge acquisition for collecting data from experts to be used to create artificial intelligence, training programs, and display formats
  • Designing instruction and feedback for diverse cognitive ability levels
  • Controlling robots
  • Spatial math
  • Visual spatial perception, auditory spatial perception
  • The intersection of technology and human aging

We also have an active Human Factors and Ergonomics Society student chapter.

Our admissions process begins in the fall, when we start accepting applications for review in January. The current deadline for applications is January 1st of each year, but check the website to be certain.

I’m happy to answer emails from prospective students. Let me know what areas you are interested in and I can help connect you with the faculty here closest to those areas.

The director of our graduate program is the best person to ask about admissions and requirements:

Donald H. Mershon, Ph.D.

email: don_mershon at ncsu.edu

The website for the Director of Graduate Programs

HF Graduate Programs: Clemson University

This is the first post in our 2-part look at some HF programs. Anne’s post about North Carolina State University’s program can be found here.

Did you know that Human Factors is not only a fun blog, but something you could get a graduate degree in?  The field is known by many names but they are the same, more or less¹ (for example, Anne and I received our degree in “engineering psychology”).

The degree is fairly generic and is defined further by specialization (for example, human-computer interaction and usability are closely associated with HF but by no means limited to it).  Human factors graduates work in industry (evaluating software/hardware usability, designing), government, and research.

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) website has a non-exhaustive list of accredited programs in the U.S.  Clemson’s HF graduate degree program [link to Clemson’s program, HFES link to Clemson] is the only accredited program in South Carolina.  Anne will highlight her own university (North Carolina State University).  If you’d like to mention your program (or Alma mater, please comment, especially our international readers).

Unfortunately, we probably should have done these posts months ago when students were researching and applying to programs but better late than never!  Still deciding on whether to do the M.S. or PhD?  See this article (PDF link) provided by HFES.  It’s old but still has great information.

Clemson University

Clemson University is located in Clemson, South Carolina which is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (in the upper left corner of the state).  The area is known as the “upstate” of South Carolina and is adjacent to one of the largest metropolitan areas of the state (Greenville-Spartanburg area).

The Department of Psychology at Clemson University offers both master’s and PhD degrees in Human Factors.  Clemson’s program is newer than most (established in 1988) but already has graduated several PhD students who work in academia and industry.  The faculty have a wide variety of research interests.  My own interests are pretty well covered by my posts on this blog.

We do not have rolling admissions; instead, applications are accepted yearly and acceptances are made in mid-late spring.  It is probably a very good idea to target people who’s research sounds interesting to you and then ask them if they are taking students that year.

Feel free to ask me questions about the program but the best person to ask is our graduate coordinator:

Dr. Robert Sinclair
Clemson University
Department of Psychology
418 Brackett Hall
Clemson, SC 29634
(864) 656-3931
(864) 656-0358 (fax)
rsincla@clemson.edu

¹similar terms to human factors:  applied cognitive psychology, applied experimental psychology, engineering psychology

HF Potpourri

  • James Rubinstein sends along a this post about a 32 inch LCD TV presumably designed for older users.  It has features such as a dramatically simplified remote control, fewer wires, and a shut-off timer.  [Engadget]
  • Designing Devices is a relatively new blog devoted to “how and why to create devices” from Dan Saffer (author of Designing for Interaction).  I’m loving the long posts (especially the one on Controls).
  • In the “why didn’t they do this sooner” category is an Ethnography application for the iPhone called Everyday Lives (warning, link opens iTunes).  It lets you record audio, video, images and other data in the field (via UXforward).

Vision-themed Potpourri

Today’s potpourri happens to be related to understanding or enhancing what your users see (or don’t see):

Browser Size view of HFB
  • Google Browser Size let’s you see how much of your web content is visible by users.
  • Rocker Lou Reed (of the Velvet Underground) designs an iPhone app for near-sighted users.  It basically increases the font size in the contacts application.  It appears that Mr. Reed has common ground with older users?  (OK, lame attempt to insert the Reed song, “Good evening Mr. Waldheim”).  [Wired]
  • When minimalism in user interfaces is too much (UXforward)
  • Perhaps confirming what we suspected, visual alerts are more disruptive than auditory alerts (LiveScience).
  • Lifehacker has an interesting discussion of the merits of multiple-monitors or single big ones as well as a list of useful utilities (I prefer multiple versus a single big one; use 2-24 inches).

HF Potpourri

More potpourri from the web:

Human Factors and Healthcare: The older patient & nurse

I‘ve recently published two papers on the topic of human factors and healthcare. Each paper covers a different “stakeholder”: the older patient and the nurse.  The first paper is available for free but the second paper (a collaboration with my architect colleague Dina Battisto) is available at your local library (or you can request a PDF reprint from me).

Pak, R., Price, M. M., & Thatcher, J. (2009). Age-sensitive design of online health information. Journal of Medical Internet Research.

ABSTRACT
Background:
Older adults’ health maintenance may be enhanced by having access to online health information. However, usability issues may prevent older adults from easily accessing such information. Prior research has shown that aging is associated with a unique pattern of cognitive changes, and knowledge of these changes may be used in the design of health websites for older adults. Objective: The goal of the current study was to examine whether older adults use of a health information website was affected by an alternative information architecture and access interface (hierarchical versus tag-based). Methods: Fifty younger adults (aged 18-23) and 50 older adults (aged 60-80) navigated a health information website, which was organized hierarchically or used tags/keywords, to find answers to health-related questions while their performance was tracked. We hypothesized that older adults would perform better in the tag-based health information website because it placed greater demands on abilities that remain intact with aging (verbal ability and vocabulary). Results: The pattern of age-related differences in computer use was consistent with prior research with older adults. We found that older adults had been using computers for less time (F1,98= 10.6, P= .002) and used them less often (F1,98= 11.3, P= .001) than younger adults. Also consistent with the cognitive aging literature, younger adults had greater spatial visualization and orientation abilities (F1,98= 34.6, P< .001 and F1,98= 6.8, P= .01) and a larger memory span (F1,98= 5.7, P= .02) than older adults, but older adults had greater vocabulary (F1,98= 11.4, P= .001). Older adults also took significantly more medications than younger adults (F1,98= 57.7, P< .001). In the information search task, older adults performed worse than younger adults (F1,96= 18.0, P< .001). However, there was a significant age × condition interaction indicating that while younger adults outperformed older adults in the hierarchical condition (F1,96= 25.2, P< .001), there were no significant age-related differences in the tag-based condition, indicating that older adults performed as well as younger adults in this condition. Conclusions: Access to online health information is increasing in popularity and can lead to a more informed health consumer. However, usability barriers may differentially affect older adults. The results of the current study suggest that the design of health information websites that take into account age-related changes in cognition can enhance older adults’ access to such information.

Battisto, D. B., Pak, R., Vander Wood, M. A., & Pilcher, J. J. (2009). Employing a task analysis to describe nursing work in acute care patient environments. Journal of Nursing Administration, 39(12), 537-547.

ABSTRACT
To improve the healthcare environment where nurses work and patients receive care, it is necessary to understand the elements that define the healthcare environment. Primary elements include (a) the occupants of the room and what knowledge, skills, and abilities they bring to the situation; (b) what tasks the occupants will be doing in the room; and (c) the characteristics of the built environment. To better understand these components, a task analysis from human factor research was conducted to study nurses as they cared for hospitalized patients. Multiple methods, including a review of nursing textbooks, observations, and interviews, were used to describe nurses’ capabilities, nursing activities, and the environmental problems with current patient room models. Findings from this initial study are being used to inform the design and evaluation of inpatient room prototype and to generate future research in improving clinical environments to support nursing productivity.

The picture at the top of this post is the room prototype referenced in the abstract above.  Further details on its design and evaluation will be covered in another forthcoming paper.

Medication Adherence Case Study

I talked with an 80 year old man last weekend about how he remembers to take his medication. His solution?

Put all the pills in one bottle and take out what he needs each day. It appears to be an anti-organizer.

If you or your loved ones are more interested in environmental support, a new free application created by Consumer Reports helps to record what was taken when. Importantly, it also tries to catch potential side effects, which are a larger problem than one would hope in the age of the computerized pharmacy.*

*After trying out the application, I take this back. It allows you to enter all the information about any drug, using the information you are given with your prescription. However, it does not do any cross-checking with a database or alert you if two medicines you are taking could interact.

If anyone wants to give the application a try and post their experience, we’d welcome the comments. If you have ideas for improvement, Consumer Reports is just the kind of company that would like to hear them. I already have a few suggestions on the screen shots below:

Medication Tracking Application

Medication Tracking Application