Building a mobile app for seniors
You might have encountered experiences of your grandfather asking for your help in operating a particular app or a feature on the smartphone and you explain them once or twice but they fail to understand it and you get irritated. It becomes difficult for older adults to understand such apps quickly or in one go as there are multiple mental and physical changes that people go through as they age. Their power to grasp is not as good as the young generation. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t use mobile apps, so a mobile app for seniors will not make any sense.
We need to build or customize senior-friendly apps that can be easily used by the elderly. Most mobile apps are built, keeping in mind the target audience, which is the young generation between the ages 15 to 34. Applications are made as per convenience while older people are not that tech-savvy, these apps are quite complicated for them to understand. Mobile app developers think that the larger audience using smartphones is the younger lot, and building apps as per their needs will bring them profits.
But the statistics show a relatively different scenario. As per the Pew Research Center’s Mobile Fact Sheet, older adults who are 50 and above are frequent smartphone users. Around 74 percent of the elderly aging 50 to 64 own a smartphone, and these numbers continue to rise with the growing technology. This shows that if the mobile app developers do not keep the elderly users in mind, they miss out on a significant population segment.
Why design and build senior-friendly apps?
As technology is advancing, so is smartphone use also increasing, and senior people are no exception. The population of people over 60 will continue to grow, and the Use of the internet, mobile apps, and smartphones will also increase. Most of the senior citizens are retired and have ample time to use mobile apps. By building such mobile apps for seniors, they will be ready to splurge on them too. There are many health-related mobile apps for elders, but many other apps they may want to use. They also wish for entertainment, social networking, and tools that the rest of the population enjoy. So, senior-friendly designing apps should be a priority for mobile app developers. Changes can be made in the existing ones for elderly users.
Problems that seniors face while using a smartphone and mobile applications
As people age, they start facing physical and mental problems. They face many health problems and challenges, which refrain them from using certain features of smartphone apps. The primary health issues include-
- Vision- problems due to vision are prevalent after the age of 50. People gradually start losing vision clarity, which makes it difficult for them to interact with the smartphone. During this age, people start developing the issue of long-sightedness that makes reading small texts difficult. With age, the ability to distinguish between colors, also known as color blindness, starts decreasing, making using the apps challenging with an interface that relies on colors as a guide.
- Loss of hearing- with increasing age, the problem of hearing loss is prevalent. One in three adults aging 65 to 74 in the US is suffering from hearing loss. This makes it difficult for the elderly to listen to soft sounds that the app might produce to update its users of the notifications, push messages, and alarms.
- Changes in motor skills- with age, movements become slower and less smooth. The motor skills decrease too, which affects the sensitivity of the fingers. Therefore, one should design such apps that are clickable and decipherable by users.
- Generational differences- another factor that makes a lot of difference is the generation gap. The older people are not as familiar with technology as the younger generation. So, it becomes a little difficult for them to understand certain features of the app. Therefore, it is essential to provide clear instructions and use simple navigation patterns in the apps to make it easier for the elderly.
Memory loss- older people usually face the problem of short term memory loss. They take time to read all the information that the app provides. Therefore, the app should be senior-friendly, which helps the user understand the features of the app.
Points to consider for developing a mobile app for seniors
Building a mobile app for elders is not a very humongous task. One needs to keep specific points in mind while designing senior-friendly apps. Most of the app developers are young, so they don’t understand the issues encountered by the elderly. Which helps them develop an app that is senior-friendly. Let’s discuss some factors that one should con while designing apps for seniors or the elderly.
- The UI of a mobile app for elders should be super convenient to use and devoid of any frills. As already discussed above, that with age, people tend to lose their vision, and it becomes difficult to see small texts. Therefore, the user interface should be kept below 12 points, and the content should be divided into smaller sections. Older people also face the problem of recognizing different colors, and blue shades appear distorted to them. For this, attention should be paid to the contrast ratio text and test the product using screen radars. Avoid using the blue font for the UI interface. People at this age also suffer issues of hearing loss. For this, subtitles are provided in video and audio content.
- Consider the size of the UI elements– at this age, the motor skills also stop functioning correctly, and it becomes more challenging for the user to utilize the apps conveniently. Having a touchscreen pad will be more comfortable for older people. The buttons should be present close to the touch interfaces. The developers of mobile app for elders should also take into account the size of human interface guidelines. Also, hand-eye coordination weakens with age. Hence, the user interface elements should be made more effective and the number of clicks should be reduced as much as possible. Older people might face problems with displacement action. The Use of standard icons should be done, which displays all the parameters to one. If the information is on the next page, the Use of breadcrumbs should be promoted to guide that particular web page section. The app’s background should be elementary and straightforward so that elderly users can see the app’s items.
- Designing the app with convenient features and elements– A typical mobile app for seniors should have such characteristics that are easy and straightforward for the elderly to understand. Instead of using the slide-out menus, a back button can be added to the main menu to go back to the previous activity. This will enhance the user experience. Attention should be given to the gestures when developing a mobile app for seniors. Use of simple gestures like simple swipe or tap will be a better idea for the elderly. Elaborate gestures like scrolling up should be avoided. Such features will attract elderly users and will be more convenient for them.
- The icons should be appropriately labeled to avoid miscommunication. The icons should be marked textually as the elderly users will not understand the symbols, which will make the app challenging to use. The text labels should be short and crisp to such words that are understandable to users’ vocabulary. Also, the size of the icons should be considered. If the icons are too small, they will be untappable. So, the icons should be of a standard size easy for the user to navigate and understand.
- Hearing loss is a common problem among elderly people. So, it is necessary to see how the apps are in terms of noise and sound. It should be seen by the developer how he integrates noise, text, and gesture-based cues. The app should be developed so that it is not hard on the ears—the Use of sounds that the elderly can hear. Also, the option of choosing the sound and volume should be given to the user. Then reminders and alerts should be added so that the users are notified from time to time. These notifications will be like a new experience for the users, helping them remember important tasks.
Tools for testing the usability of the app for seniors
Many tools can help you in knowing whether app designing is being done in the right direction or not. These tools will guide you if there are any flaws or issues in designing the senior-friendly app.
- Visual impairment tools can help understand how the user interface looks to the visually impaired. These tools can show you what images look like to color blind people or people suffering from cataracts or glaucoma.
- Companies also take the help of a disability consultant to guide them on what all things to be considered and what flaws are there in the app.
- Many online platforms, like user zoom, use lyrics, etc., allow developers to test the user’s experience with specific personas.
- Another and the best thing that can be done is to ask the senior citizens for their feedback as to what they think about the app.
Benefits of designing Mobile App for seniors
Using such senior-friendly apps is a boon for people facing health problems like vision impairment or memory loss. Let’s discuss some of the benefits of developing senior-friendly apps for elders.
- These apps help in staying in touch with their family members.
- Convenient and access to administrative services.
- Making new friends of the same age group.
- It gives them a feeling of being independent.
- It also increases self-esteem and gives them a sense of achievement by developing new cognitive skills.
Some Common Mobile App for seniors
Some apps exist for senior citizens and are extremely helpful. These apps are for all users’ needs ranging from travel, health, education, fitness, and security. Let’s discuss some of these apps-
- Netmeds– through this app, seniors can order medicines online and keep track of their medications. They need to add their prescription online to place an order.
- Magnifying glass and flashlight- this app will help the older adults in reading small prints like a restaurant menu or a prescription bottle. It also comes with a lighting option, which makes the reading more readable.
- Empowerji– this particular app is like a blessing in disguise for the elderly as it helps them learn how to use technology. It provides vast knowledge to make them more self-reliant.
- Oscar senior– this app is a messaging app for seniors that allows them to send text messages, voice messages, make calls, and video calls. The app can also help check reminders and news.
- Omron blood pressure monitor- this app helps in keeping track of your blood pressure. It also keeps a check on multiple health parameters, which can be shared easily with the doctor.
The elderly are already a neglected segment of the population. Such mobile apps for seniors is developed which will help them use the technology conveniently. These senior-friendly apps will help them in dealing with the significant issues that they are facing. These apps will boost their confidence and give them a sense of satisfaction. The above points should be kept in mind while considering the idea of developing such apps. These apps will come in handy to you also at a particular stage. Don’t forget, you will also become old, and then you can thank yourself later.
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