Understanding the Problems of the Elderly

Communication Affects Psychology

The use of digital technology for communication purposes has changed our daily lives drastically. However, communication companies generally disregard the old people who are not able to use digital screen interfaces. "A phone for the elderly" is an important design problem because communication has crucial effects on the mental and physical health of aging people. To design a phone for the elderly, my design process was initiated with understanding the problems of the aging population.
"The health impacts of loneliness can be devastating; it is worse for you than obesity, and as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day."
The Guardian

User’s Perspective

The vision of a young adult (top) and the vision of an older adult (below) are compared below theoretically.

Understanding the Problems of the elderly

External video: Bridging The Exclusion Gap - Cambridge University A set of gloves and glasses which simulate common physical limitations, like age-related long-sightedness or arthritis

Insights from the research

Communication is an important need for the elderly, but most of them remain incapable of using the phones in the market. Although every individual has different health problems when aging, there are some common problems which need to be solved when creating a communication device.


Achieving Usability with a Tangible Interaction
Digitalization helped many users to do things faster and easier but it is not the same for the elderly population. Since older users find digital interfaces hard to use, smartphones become a hassle for them. The elderly are more comfortable with tangible interactions rather than abstract interactions. During the ideation phase, age-related problems of the elderly were solved by analyzing user group behaviors. Consequently, a tangible interaction is preferred to achieve usability for the elderly.

Use Scenario

Considering the Behaviors of the Elderly
When getting older, people confront new physical and mental challenges. The elderly react to these challenges by creating new behaviors, and it is important to understand these behaviors. Easy Phone is designed for the easiest use scenario for elderly users by considering the needs, problems, capabilities, and behaviors of the user group.

1. Preparing Contact Cards

The contact cards include RFID tags in order to associate cards with phone numbers.

2. Linking cards to phone numbers

A relative of old person links phone numbers to Contact Cards by connecting the dock to a PC via USB.

3. Incoming calls

The phone tells the name of the caller while notifying incoming calls with low-frequency ringtones which can be heard easily by old people.

4. Outgoing calls

The user can call someone by placing Contact Cards on the phone.

5. Charging the phone

The dock charges the battery of the phone wirelessly. Generally, old people want to have an obvious place for the phone, and the dock can be used as a resting place too.

6. Mobility

While going out, the user may take some cards to the purse.


A Mobile Phone Designed for the Elderly
To call someone, regular phones require multiple steps in complicated digital interfaces. However, Easy Phone simplifies the interaction with the help of "Tangible Interface Design" approach and enables the user to call somebody quickly with a simple action. When designing Easy Phone, behaviors, and needs of the elderly were taken into account to create the best phone for them. The slanted and directional body of the phone provides an ergonomic use and prevents misplacement of the phone on the face. Simple design with two buttons ensures ease-of-use. The charging dock fits the habits of the users. The contact cards purse provides mobility.

The Basic Function with Easy Interaction

Easy Phone achieves to provide the basic function of a phone (calling someone) with a simple step. The interaction design of the phone is tangible and easy. Therefore, the phone is convenient in daily life for an elderly user.

Guiding the User with the Shape

Regular rectangular phones do not fit to the curve of the head and cause discomfort. Moreover, regular phones can be misplaced on the head because they don't guide the user with their shape. The slanted and directional body of the Easy Phone provides an ergonomic use and prevents misplacement of the phone on the face.

Charging Dock and a Place to Put the Phone on

Seniors want to have an obvious place to put their phone when they are home. This is a good strategy if you are losing your phone frequently. Easy Phone has a dock for the user to put the phone on. The dock charges the phone wirelessly. Moreover, the dock has "Find my Phone" button which rings the phone when it is lost inside the home.

Contact Cards and Mobility

The contact cards enable the user to call defined numbers easily. Emergency numbers can be assigned to the contact cards too. Easy Phone has a purse for carrying the contact cards, so the user can take the cards when going out.

The Set and the Connection

Easy Phone comes within a set of; dock, phone, a box for cards, contact cards, and a purse for cards. The parts of the set can communicate with each other with different connection methods, and the phone has a SIM card for mobility.