People who were in in their 40s during the internet boom of the late 90s will now be coming into retirement, suggesting a new wave of tech savvy seniors. There are increasing numbers of tech startups aimed at the elderly, but those aged 55+ are still only 3% of total internet users. In a world increasingly dependent upon the internet, we need to consider how we can keep so-called silver surfers connected. In order to help get seniors online, we must look beyond accessibility for disabled users and also consider the needs of older internet users.
Baby boomers will have been young enough to enjoy the excitement of the internet’s original web domains. They’ve come a long way since then, but they are still generally designed by young tech wizards, who may not have considered the difficulties that come with ageing. One of the main problems is with eyesight.
Modern websites which aim to be inclusive should use large, bright text and images where possible. There should also be an easily accessible button to adjust text size for those with visual impairments. By stripping out clutter and creating a clean looking website, we can ensure that all ages can enjoy surfing the web.
Another common symptom of ageing is hearing loss. This is particularly common at higher frequencies. Web developers should therefore consider the pitch of any noises on their site and lower this so that it can be easily heard by the young and old alike. Most websites deal in text alone, but videos are becoming an increasingly common aspect of social media.
The best way to ensure accessibility of videos is to use accurate and easy to read subtitles. Introducing these can bring new information to seniors that they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. As with visual design, audio should be clean and clutter free. That means removing distracting background music. For video guides, the speaker should talk loudly, slowly and clearly, with the hearing impaired in mind.
The third biggest problem that seniors face online concerns their movement. It can be difficult to navigate fiddly on screen icons if dealing with arthritis pain. It is therefore a good idea to ensure all buttons are big and easy to click on. Modern touch screen technology on smartphones, tablets and laptops are making navigation easier for everybody, but website developers can do more to help.
Those with poor fine motor control will appreciate a website with large icons, which are clearly separated from each other. This can perhaps be done using different colors. The most important buttons should be in highly visible places to reduce the need to search around for a long time.
Seniors are perhaps more interested in using the internet than you intuitively believe. This will be increasingly the case in coming years. However, visual, auditory and motor deterioration will always occur. Website developers should therefore design their sites with the elderly in mind and work to create pages accessible to all ages.
This article is contributed by Jackie Edwards. Thank you for a wonderful work.