Tips to design innovative
digital products for Senior Citizens

(As continued from Volume 1)

Tips to Design Innovative Apps

“If you can get senior citizens to say that your company is good, their loyalty level is so much higher than younger peoples’. If you make things easy for them, they’ll keep coming back to you again and again.”
Senior citizens are the largest-growing consumer group with the maximum amount of money to spend as they represent an expanding population segment with a lot of buying power.

However, they are usually overlooked at when it comes to mobile app ideas/ user interface design or are considered only as an afterthought by most of the technology companies.

Not all old people are vulnerable and in need of help: particularly the younger old who are active and are engaged in giving back to society. Senior citizens are a heterogeneous lot and to stereotype them as needy is not right. Mobile devices being manufactured for them should focus on age-appropriate designs that reflect their interests and to enable them to actively feel, and be better connected.

For senior citizens, the basic idea that you can access almost any piece of information, from almost anywhere is a mind-boggling concept, which is the innovative apps’ features all the tech specialists and application designers must make maximum use of.

Before we get into User Interface guidelines for the senior citizen, let’s take a look at their age-related functional limitations and what are its implications:

Visual Decline with aging:
  • Diminishing ability to focus on near tasks including screens of mobile devices/ tablets
  • Pupil Shrinkage and lowered color perception
  • Reduction in visual field
Hearing Loss with age:
  • Gradual age-related reduction and the increasing inability to hear high-pitched sounds
Motor Skill Diminishment:

Arthritis and Parkinson’s Disease affecting 50% of Americans over 65 leads to difficulty in:

  • Keeping the hand steady while navigating
  • Slipping off multi-level menus
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Moving in the desired direction
Cognitive Decline:

Among the elderly, Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia or even subjective memory loss can lead to:

  • Trouble in remembering the names of people met recently
  • Trouble in recalling the flow of a conversation
  • A high tendency to misplace things
Multiple impairments and recognition: Many senior citizens deny acknowledging the natural ageing process and disguise any sort of functional or sensory impairment such as difficulties in performing daily activities such as using a telephone, watering the plants, using the Internet etc.

Let’s take a look at the basic considerations a design specialist must keep in mind before creating a device or implementing mobile app ideas for senior citizens:

  • Create your design in accordance with various screen sizes
  • It should be usable without an active Internet connection (note-taking or calculator apps)
  • Integration with other parts of the mobile operating system
  • Readable and understandable text
  • Audible voice commands
  • Identifiable links
  • Clear Headings
  • Good orientation and Navigation

    Good orientation and Navigation

“Seniors need to be treated with respect and dignity, so ensure that your design does not patronize or talk down to them!”
While designing the user interface for the older adults, the designer must purely focus on the social, psychological and mental needs of the user to guarantee maximum digital participation from their side. The key to the brilliant user experience for people catering to all age groups is sheer simplicity.

  • Size: Use 12 Point or 14 Point type size for body text
  • Weight: Use Medium or Boldface type
  • Capital Lowercase: Present body text in upper and lowercase letters. Use all capital letters and italics in headlines only. Reserve underlining for links.
  • Physical Spacing: Double-space all body text
  • Justification: There are only 3 ways to justify type: Left, full or center justified. Left justified text is suitable for senior citizens.


Visual Design:

Experienced older users can scan pages as well as younger users, but newer elderly users can find pages with irrelevant material (such as advertisements) highly distracting. Older users generally prefer larger text and for those who have vision-deficits require suitable contrast along with headings to help them narrow their visual search.

  • Information Architecture: Skimming and scanning are common across all age groups and vision abilities. Thus, within the app clear labeling of links, headings and menu items is important for older users as they don’t prefer too many complicated steps while accessing the device.
  • Layout & Style: The most important information and content should be placed on the first screen of the app as the older adult is not expected to scroll down. The layout should be based on the needs of the user including the priority of the information and the typing style of the user.
  • Layout consistency should include placement of logos and graphics as well as alignment (vertically and horizontally) of information and items on a page. They prefer rows and columns on the page to be aligned and, as a result, they can read the text better.
Animation & Graphic Elements:

Flashing or blinking graphics are highly distracting. For both new users and those with diminished peripheral vision, such as glaucoma or cataracts, such animation can be the difference between viewing a site and not. Excessive popup windows and ads banners have this same impact, distracting the reader and drawing attention to everything else but the app.

  • Avoid Distracting Background: Using any background patterns including watermarks or embossed logos generally, are distracting and interfere with readability. As an alternative, a light complementary background color can be applied.
  • Balance of Type & Open Space: Large areas of white space and small blocks of text increase readability. The results are your pages are cleaner and easier to navigate. Keep in mind that larger (longer) pages can mean more scrolling for the user. Consider including hyperlinks within longer pages so viewers can “jump” from section to section with a single click.
  • Paragraph Alignment: Left-hand alignment as used in this document, offers a high level of readability as compared to justification. Justified paragraphs have all lines the same length. Forcing the line length causes irregular letter and word spacing.

Color is a critical consideration in web and interface design. Partial sight, aging and congenital color defects all produce changes in perception that reduce the visual effects of certain color combinations.

  • Colors to Avoid: A safe approach is to keep colors bright and bold. It is usually in the low saturation levels (very pale or very dark) that cause difficulties for users with color deficiencies. Colors that are exceptionally bright, fluorescent or vibrant can have edges that appear to blur and create after images, which fatigue the eye.

Certain Must-Knows:

  • Avoid the use of complex interactions
  • Key function unity (one key one function)
  • Page function unity (one page one task)
  • Place confirmations every possible time
  • Make use of Coloring
  • Make use of Labeling
  • Make use navigation bar/menu
  • Provide feedback continuously
  • Distinct feedback from each action
  • Minimize Errors
  • High Recoverability
  • On-screen help
  • Make use of proper size interface components
  • Touch sensitive area/Size of the button should be 16.5 mm to 19.05 mm
  • Spacing size between button/touch sensitive 3.15 mm to 12.7 mm
  • Avoid using the scroll bar
  • Present text the simplest way
  • Make use of black font on white

Tech specialists need to ensure that they go an extra mile when it comes to accommodating the human aging process so as to make the innovative apps or mobile device easier and faster to use.

Contrary to what many people believe, older people don’t have much time to waste. If they find the UI/UX too difficult, they will go elsewhere-just as all other users do.