Report aims to empower seniors with better product usability

Product developers are failing older people with assistive products that are not fit for purpose, according to a representative survey.

Most older Australians fail to find products intended for their age group user-friendly, highlighting a significant gap in market offerings, according to a new report from the Global Centre for Modern Ageing.

The report – entitled Empowering Older Adults with Better Product Usability – is based on a survey of more than 1,000 Australians over the age of 65 living in the cities, suburbs, and rural and remote areas. Released last Monday, the report aims to highlight the challenges faced by older adults and spearhead advancements in product usability.

GCMA chief executive Julianne Parkinson introduced the report at Australian Healthcare Week in Sydney on Wednesday where she chaired the Aged Care Transformation stage over two days.

“The key findings are that if you’re at home thinking ‘a product doesn’t work for me or seem comfortable’, you’re not alone,” Ms Parkinson told Australian Ageing Agenda at the event. “If you think that having products that work for you that are user-friendly would help you with independent living, then you’re in company; there’s over 93 per cent of people who feel the same way. And yet, less than half of those, dramatically less, feel that the products are user-friendly.”

Elsewhere among those surveyed, 81 per cent report feeling neglected by product designers and manufacturers, citing the following key barriers:

  • small fonts (49 per cent)
  • grip issues (76 per cent)
  • tough packaging (77 per cent)
  • confusing instructions (66 per cent).

The findings are particularly useful for product developers about whether their devices are fit for purpose and up to date, Ms Parkinson said.

“The benefit of the report is that it helps to crystallise particularly for product developers where the inherent gaps are sitting, and how well they truly understand their consumer base – which represents the largest and the largest-growing community of people; older Australians,’ she said.

Another key finding, said Ms Parkinson, is that older people want to be able to seek assistance about product usability. “They want some guidance, and they want some facts on the table that represent not just how a product works generally for ageing, but how it works for them as an individual.”

Almost three-quarters of survey respondents want age-friendliness information on products in their demographics to help inform purchasing decisions (74 per cent), and a similar amount said online products review categorised by reviewer demographics including aged would be beneficial (72 per cent).

Julianne Parkinson addressing Australian Healthcare Week

To help, GCMA has been collaborating on the development of an independent usability rating tool – which is coming to market shortly. “[It aims] to help bring greater clarity to the product developer and more empowerment to the user,” Ms Parkinson told AAA.

In addition to individuals, the tool and this report are great resources for the people responsible for procurement such as those in aged care and retirement-living organisations, she said.

“We’ve been hearing from aged care and retirement-living providers that they’re being given so many products – and particularly technology-enabled products – and they’re in paralysis about which ones to choose and which ones shift the dial on aging well, versus those ending up in the storeroom or choking up resources. And also, which ones empower and enable their workforce, team and culture to perform their best work on any one day,” Ms Parkinson said.

“This helps us open our minds to the fact that there’s work to be done. And now we need to set about with some evidence-based solutions that are user-friendly in their own right, that allow us to empower those people who need it, be it workforce, residents or indeed a blend of both.”

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on FacebookX (Twitter) and LinkedIn, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: AHW 2024, GCMA, Global Centre for Modern Ageing, Julianne Parkinson, product usability,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *