Creating Accessible Design and Content for the Elderly

[Approximate Reading Time : 4 mins]

When we think of digital accessibility, we think of people with disabilities. We forget that with old age comes a gradual decline in vision, hearing, manual dexterity, and cognitive abilities. Many older people have age-related impairments that affect their ability to use the internet efficiently.

Websites cater to millennials but ignore the 50-plus audience who accounts for about 25 percent of the total sales. Businesses lose potential clients because their websites are not comfortable to navigate and find what clients are looking for. While most of websites adhere to laws on accessibility, they do not immediately realize that there is an overlap of needs between seniors and people with disabilities. Websites, applications, and tools designed for people with disabilities are more accessible to older users as well. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by W3C has set international accessibility standards for older users to help designers understand their requirements.

  • Clear, larger fonts and resizable text
  • High contrast ratio for text and images
  • Not using only colors to convey information
  • Multimedia files with transcripts, captions, and low background sounds
  • Alternative CAPTCHAs
  • Visible focus indicators and larger buttons and drop-downs
  • Easily identifiable links
  • Clear navigation with more than one way to locate a web page
  • Adjustable/extendable timers and flexible submissions that allow users to correct errors
  • Low-level reading ability with definitions for terms and abbreviations
  • Error messages that identify, explain, and direct the user to the error
  • Fewer distractions like pop-ups, sounds, and advertisements

The main challenge in designing a site that is accessible for old people is that the requirements are not uniform across the board. The 50-plus group is a heterogeneous population, with each member having a combination of varying degrees of age-related ailments. People aged 65 and above fall under the category of old people, but the abilities of the human body start to diminish in the early 20s. Often, the aids designed for old people also help younger generations.

The common assumption is that old people do not use technology, but the reality is that most of them are digitally literate and use smartphones and the internet on a daily basis to stay connected and informed and to shop and book services. They form a growing market segment for many businesses, governments, and organizations. According to a report by the US Census Bureau, people over the age of 65 have the highest household wealth of any age group. The number of elderly people is expected to drastically increase in the following decades, and website designs need to upgrade to accommodate their needs. Current designs feature low readability, distractions, and confusing navigation that affects user experience. Websites designed for young people are often inaccessible for older users.

In many countries, people retire late, and their expectations of the online world amount to a few changes so that they do not feel like failures. Mental frustration increases with age, and designers have a responsibility to sustain users who in turn help build and sustain businesses.

How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our jobs a little better?

—Steve Krug

By embracing accessible designs and creating accessible content for the elderly, we can overcome digital discrimination against seniors. Technology has the power to address their isolation and improve their quality of life. Design for the elderly to make them believe that somewhere somebody cares for them and for who they are. Amnet is a Benetech-certified accessibility vendor with more than two decades of experience in the field. Make your site comfortable for seniors, and expand your market reach.

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