App Developers Urged to Consider Older Generations

Posted on September 14, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Earlier today, I was involved in a discussion about technology, and how “older generations” have a harder time understanding, or even wanting to be involved, in the latest innovations. As I listened to others talk about this topic, I couldn’t help but think about how often I see articles in the health care IT world concerning this very idea. Older doctors are hesitant to embrace EMRs. Smart phone apps can be confusing for someone who grew up with a phone that you had to spin the dial to call anyone (and, well, they can be confusing for me too!). We came to the conclusion that most of us just don’t like change, and someday, when we’re being told we need to “get with the times,” we’ll be longing for the early days of smart phones and technology.

Anyways, after this discussion, I was reading the latest articles over at Fierce Mobile Health Care, and came across one that seemed pertinent to the topic. Apparently, quite a few of the diabetes apps have posed some problems for older users. The article cites a study that was done that analyzed three different diabetes tracking apps that had a 4 star rating or above. The researchers discovered that “for people with declines in cognition, vision, and motor skills, they can be difficult to use — which might lead to a stop in their use entirely.”

Because of this study, the researchers, North Carolina State University’s Laura Whitlock and Anne McLaughlin, are hoping to convince app designers to consider the needs of older users when developing apps. They found that many of the problems in the three apps analyzed were easily fixed, but if they weren’t fixed, many older users would have a hard time using them.

There has been a lot of success with diabetes tracking and adherence apps, especially with people ages 13 to 19. However, because diabetes is a disease that many older people have, it would be nice if these apps could be made more accessible to them. They need to be simple. The text needs to be bigger, and the colors must be easy to read. It may not seem like a big deal to a teenager, or young adults, but for someone who hasn’t been raised with this kind of technology — it makes a big difference.

I do hope that app developers will take the needs of this “older generation” in mind as they create apps. Maybe two different versions could be made — a more “advanced” version, and a simple one. I believe that many people could benefit from health apps, and they should be easily usable by everyone. Obviously, some apps can be designed towards people who are more tech savvy. But for apps that deal with diseases that may affect a large demographic of people, some of the suggestions made in this article should be taken into consideration.