Participatory Design: How to Engage Older Adults in Participatory Design Activities

Participatory Design: How to Engage Older Adults in Participatory Design Activities

Lilit Hakobyan, Jo Lumsden, Dympna O'Sullivan
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/ijmhci.2015070106
(Individual Articles)
No Current Special Offers


Ongoing advances in mobile technologies have the potential to improve independence and quality of life of older adults by supporting the delivery of personalised and ubiquitous healthcare solutions. The authors are actively engaged in participatory, user-focused research to create a mobile assistive healthcare-related intervention for persons with age-related macular degeneration (AMD): the authors report here on our participatory research in which participatory design (PD) has been positively adopted and adapted for the design of our mobile assistive technology. The authors discuss their work as a case study in order to outline the practicalities and highlight the benefits of participatory research for the design of technology for (and importantly with) older adults. The authors argue it is largely impossible to achieve informed and effective design and development of healthcare-related technologies without employing participatory approaches, and outline recommendations for engaging in participatory design with older adults (with impairments) based on practical experience.
Article Preview

1. Introduction

The global population of people aged 60 years and older is growing rapidly; it is estimated that the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years of age will reach 22% by 2050 (WHO, 2014). The aging population is creating serious healthcare provision challenges given that healthcare expenditure typically increases with age and is predicted to account for an ever increasing proportion of healthcare budgets in the future; adults aged 85 and over consume three times as much healthcare per person as those aged 65-74, and twice as much as those aged 75-84 (Alemayehu and Warner, 2004).

Ongoing advances in mobile technologies are increasing the scope for supporting the delivery of healthcare to older adults within their homes via mobile assistive healthcare technologies. Unfortunately, however, age-related physical and sensory impairments – many of which change or degenerate over time – are common amongst older adults and present a number of design and ethical challenges in terms of the successful and effective development of such technologies. In addition to these challenges, there are significant barriers for the use of technology by older adults, including counter-intuitive interfaces and the fact that such technologies are not typically specifically designed to meet older adults’ needs, wants and capabilities (e.g., Leonardi et al., 2008).

An estimated 40% of information systems projects do not ultimately meet user requirements, and more than 60% of projects go over their estimated budgets due to inadequate user needs analysis; one of the main factors underpinning poor systems development is lack of practical participatory, user-centred design (UCD) knowledge and application within development teams (Johnson et al., 2005). The involvement of stakeholders in software development processes has long been advocated in recognition of the proven higher levels of user acceptance of the resulting technology (e.g., De Rouck et al., 2008; Lacey and MacNamara, 2000). Designers adopting the participatory user-centred philosophy recognise that they are not simply designing for themselves (to their own preferences) or for people with similar abilities and needs, but are instead designing for individuals who are often very different in terms of needs, capabilities, and attitudes (Cheverst et al., 2006). While it could be argued that conventional participatory UCD methods are not always entirely appropriate when designing for a large diversity of users (Stojmenova et al., 2012), or are challenging to apply when engaging individuals with impairments (Connelly et al., 2006), it is nevertheless imperative (to achieve maximal utility, usability, and acceptance) that users’ needs, capabilities and wants are given extensive attention when designing technologies for their use.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Volume 15: 1 Issue (2023)
Volume 14: 4 Issues (2022): 1 Released, 3 Forthcoming
Volume 13: 1 Issue (2021)
Volume 12: 3 Issues (2020)
Volume 11: 4 Issues (2019)
Volume 10: 4 Issues (2018)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2010)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2009)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing