The Influence of Ageing on User Experience

The Influence of Ageing on User Experience

Ana Cristina Medeiros (University of Cambridge, UK), Nathan Crilly (University of Cambridge, UK) and P. John Clarkson (University of Cambridge, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch018


The world population is ageing. At both the individual and collective levels, ageing causes several changes in people’s lives that influence their needs and the way in which they interact with products. This chapter aims first, to provide a literature review on different aspects of ageing in order to better understand how people will respond to products as they grow older. Second, it describes how the physical and cognitive decline of older users increases rather than decreases the need to focus on all aspects of their experience, including their physical, sensory, cognitive and affective responses. Having considered these issues, suggestions are made in order that designers might best focus their attention as they design for a population that is rapidly ageing, and where members of that population are encouraged to maintain full participation in society.
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The ageing of the population is a result of a long-run decline in fertility, and a reduction in mortality at younger ages (Lee & Tuljapurkar, 1998). These factors, in turn, result from ongoing developments in medicine, infrastructure and education. However, whilst population ageing is a consequence of various social achievements, at the individual level, the ageing process involves not only elements of continued fulfilment, but also of progressive degeneration (Burton et al., 2005). Since the ageing process is complex and varied, researchers have focused on different aspects of ageing separately. For ease of understanding, in this chapter these aspects are clustered in five different groups – physical, sensory, cognitive, affective and social ageing. As we shall see later, when designing for the broader population, it is important to consider each of these aspects, how they may influence one another, and how they may affect people’s responses and well-being. Therefore, each group of aspects is discussed in turn below so that their implications for design might be better understood.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Accessibility: Is defined as: the potential the user has to interact with a product or system.

Desirability: Is defined as: a product or system’s potential to motivate a user to approach, obtain or interact with it.

Usability: Is defined as: the potential for the user to benefit from a product or system’s utility through successful interaction.

(Industrial) Design: Is defined as: “the professional service of creating and developing concepts and specifications that optimize the function, value and appearance of products and systems for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer” (

Product Experience: Is defined as: “the awareness of the psychological effects elicited by the interaction with a product, including the degree to which our senses are stimulated, the meanings and values we attach to the product, and the feelings and emotions that are elicited” (Schifferstein and Hekkert, 2008: p2)

Utility: Is defined as: the functionality of a product or system that is deemed useful to the user.

User Capabilities: Are defined as: the user’s motion, sensory and cognitive resources. It includes locomotion, reach-and-stretch, dexterity, vision, hearing, communication and intellectual functions.

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