The world's population is ageing rapidly. Designers need to take notice.

Nigel Moyes


As the world's population steadily ages, the imperative to design digital products that cater to their needs becomes increasingly pressing. Designing for older people isn’t just a matter of inclusivity, but a pathway to creating digital experiences which benefit everyone.

A world growing older and more prosperous

In an era of rapid technological advancement, it's easy to become enamoured with shiny new gadgets and digital experiences. But as we forge ahead, we mustn't overlook a critical demographic deserving of our attention and consideration: the ageing population.

Across the globe, the demographic landscape is undergoing a significant transformation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2050, nearly 22% of the global population will be aged 60 and above. The population pyramid is inverting, with more people living longer lives. This demographic shift has profound implications for various sectors, including technology and design. As the digital world becomes more intertwined with everyday activities, it's imperative that we ensure digital products are accessible and intuitive for all age groups.

At the same time, GDP per capita is also rising. With this generally comes an increase in the standard of living, and greater access to (and expectations of) the information, technology and devices that form such a large part of modern day living.

So, how do we ensure everyone can get the information, products, and services that they need?

Designing with empathy: the case for age-friendly interfaces

Creating digital products that cater to the needs of an ageing population is not just about compassion—it's about recognising the immense value this demographic brings to the table. Older people have diverse backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations, and they are also avid users of technology. By designing with empathy, we create interfaces that are easy to navigate, comprehend, and engage with.

Designing with empathy isn't about relying on assumptions or stereotypes about older individuals; it's about forging a direct connection with them throughout the entire design journey. Engaging in meaningful conversations, soliciting feedback, and involving older users in user testing sessions are all invaluable ways to truly understand their needs, preferences, and challenges. By co-creating solutions with this demographic we transcend biases and foster a design process that is not just user-centred, but user-driven, ensuring that their experiences are genuinely considered and respected.

Begin by conducting thorough research to gain insights into the specific needs and pain points of these people. Actively involve older individuals in interviews, observations and usability testing sessions where they can provide firsthand feedback on prototypes and concepts. Their input is an invaluable resource that can guide you in making informed design decisions. Regularly seek feedback and iterate based on their insights, ensuring that your design solutions are aligned with their real-world experiences. By putting empathy into action and integrating the wisdom of experience, you pave the way for digital products which are not only functional but transformative for users of all ages.

Beyond ageing: the universal benefits of accessible design

Here's the fascinating aspect: the very design choices that make digital products accessible and comfortable for older people often enhance the user experience for everyone. This is the “curb-cut effect” in action in the digital realm. Think about these very simplified examples—larger text is easier to read for everyone, clear contrast benefits those in various lighting conditions, and intuitive navigation streamlines the user journey for users of all ages. The principles that make digital products friendly for older users are, in essence, universal principles of good design that prioritise clarity, simplicity, and inclusivity.

Accessible design isn't merely a moral imperative; it's actually a strategic advantage that translates into tangible business benefits. According to a study by the World Institute on Disability, the annual disposable income of adults with disabilities in the United States is approximately $490 billion. By creating digital products that accommodate diverse needs, you're tapping into a substantial market share that can drive revenue growth. Moreover, a report by Accenture reveals that companies embracing inclusive design principles outperform their competitors by up to 70% in terms of revenue. Accessibility opens doors to a wider audience, enhances user satisfaction, boosts brand loyalty, and fosters positive word-of-mouth. In an era where consumers gravitate toward brands that prioritise social responsibility and inclusivity, accessible design emerges not only as a means to provide an exceptional experience but also as a strategic driver of business success.

Building a better digital future

In a world where technology is integral to our lives, the responsibility to design inclusively is clear. As we embrace the ageing population as a vital and valued part of our digital landscape, we're simultaneously crafting experiences that are a joy to use for everyone. The principles of accessible design stand as a testament to the fact that when we design for the most vulnerable, we uplift the entire community.

The ageing population isn't just a segment to cater to; they are a reflection of our collective journey through life. By embracing their needs, preferences, and aspirations, we forge a path towards a digital future that is welcoming, empowering, and enriching for everyone. Inclusive design isn't a burden—it's an opportunity to shape a world where technology is truly accessible to all ages, abilities, and walks of life. The time to design with empathy and foresight is now, for the ageing population and for the betterment of society as a whole.

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