Home | Specialty Focus | New report reveals older adults feel neglected and unheard – opinion
Julianne Parkinson, the chief of GCMA, writes about a new study into product usability and older Australians. Picture: Supplied/GCMA.

New report reveals older adults feel neglected and unheard – opinion

Australia, like many countries, is experiencing population ageing, with the number of individuals aged 65 years and over projected to increase from 3.7 million in 2016 to more than 10 million by 2066. 

In response to this demographic shift, we at the Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) have released a new report: Empowering Older Australians with Better Product Usability.

This research results from surveying more than 1000 Australians aged 65 and over and sheds light on the pressing issues facing our ageing community. It’s about recognising and responding to the evolving needs and preferences of older adults, who live longer and differently. 

After all, population ageing extends well beyond Australians' older adults. It presents an opportunity for everyone to be more inclusive and mindful of the diverse needs, preferences, and circumstances of individuals that continue to change throughout their lives.

Our findings

While many products are intended for older adults on the market, our research shows a clear disconnect between industry perceptions of product usability and the real-world usability challenges older consumers face.

While 93 per cent of older Australians surveyed believe product usability supports independent living, a majority are dissatisfied with the user-friendliness of products intended for their age group. 

Eighty-one per cent of respondents felt overlooked by product designers and manufacturers, who often miss the mark on essential features like readability, grip, and simplicity of use. However, despite encountering numerous usability barriers, 43 per cent said they do not seek help or request product adaptations when dissatisfied. 

Furthermore, 74 per cent of participants expressed a desire for age-friendliness information on products, which would enable them to make more informed purchasing decisions. This gap not only impacts the daily lives of older adults but also points to a broader issue of age-related exclusion within product design.

Bridging the gap: The role of research and co-design

These findings highlight a significant gap in market offerings, presenting an opportunity for industry and innovators to respond by developing more tailored and effective solutions. There is an urgent need for targeted research and solutions to close the gap on usability issues and ensure that products support and enrich the daily lives of older Australians.

We need to work towards creating a marketplace where older adults are heard and actively involved in shaping the products and services they use daily. That’s why, at the GCMA, we are pioneering efforts to ensure that the voices of older Australians are valued in the product design process. Our internationally acclaimed living lab, one of only 18 in the world focused on ageing, is a collaborative hub to drive marketplace innovation. 

By leveraging lived experience, we put older adults’ expectations, pain points and aspirations at the heart of our solutions while fostering market innovation, reducing user frustrations and ultimately building stronger and more inclusive economies. It ensures older Australians can thrive on their own terms, maintaining autonomy for the greatest possible time with access to products that truly meet their needs and preferences.

A call for continued advocacy

If we are to succeed in fostering an environment where every individual, regardless of age, has the opportunity to thrive, we need to act now.

The findings of our latest report are a call to action for all involved in product development and design. We have a remarkable opportunity to understand older consumers' needs better and close the current usability gap.

We need a collective effort from designers, manufacturers and policymakers to foster an inclusive and age-friendly product landscape that empowers our country’s ageing population to live more independent and fulfilling lives.

Julianne Parkinson is the chief of the Global Centre of Modern Ageing.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

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