Designing wearables for the elderly could improve utilization

Wearable technology simplifies keeping up with a healthy life by providing information on cardiac health, illnesses and emergency alerts. While most users of wearables are younger, researchers believe the technology could reach its full potential for elderly patients who could benefit the most from multiple uses of the devices. In an article published in Ergonomics in Design, researchers outlined the framework for personalizing the wearable experience for older patients.

The older the patient, the more health problems that need addressing. Older populations may be missing out on improved outcomes with an improved ability to manage health with wearable devices. Researchers address the factors in improving utilization.

"The proportion of the population over the age of 65 is growing and will continue to do so,” said Joanna Lewis, a doctoral student of applied experimental and human factors psychology at the University of Central Florida. “Technological developments are exponentially growing and inundating our lives, and we don't want a demographic that is scaling up in size not to have access to devices that are becoming prolific in everyday society."

Currently, older populations have higher rates of mistrust in technology, which leads to patient often giving up on using the device. As patients age, they experience delays in cognitive, physical and sensory abilities, so researchers have designed a framework focusing on these needs to improve wearable use. Researchers reported first steps to improve use include reducing necessary daily steps, eliminating time constraints and increasing the size of lettering and icons.

"A device's usability should consider all ages," Lewis adds. "Potential issues with wearable devices for older adults can be avoided by acknowledging limitations, and development teams can create effective and safe platforms that appeal to a variety of end users."