Identifying familiarity to facilitate intuitive interaction for older adults

Lawry, Simon Gary (2012) Identifying familiarity to facilitate intuitive interaction for older adults. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Almost every nation on the planet is experiencing increases in both the number and proportion of older adults. Research has shown that older adults use technology less intuitively than younger adults, and have more difficulty with using products effectively. With an ever-increasing population of older adults, it is necessary to understand why they often struggle to use technology, which is becoming more and more important in day to day living. Intuitive use of products is grounded in familiarity and prior experience. The aims of this research were twofold: (i) to examine the differences in familiarity between younger and older adults, to see if this could explain the difficulties faced by some older adults; (ii) to develop investigational methods to assist designers in identifying familiarity in prospective users.

Two empirical studies were conducted. The first experiment was conducted in the field with 32 participants, divided across four age groups (18 – 44, 45 – 59, 60 – 74, and 75+). This experiment was conducted in the participants’ homes, with a product they were familiar with. Familiarity was measured through the analysis of data collected through interviews, observation and retrospective protocol. The results of this study show that the youngest group demonstrated significantly higher levels of familiarity with products they own than the 60 – 74 and the 75+ age groups. There were no significant differences between the 18 – 44 age group and the 45 – 59 age group and there were also no significant differences between the three oldest age groups. The second experiment was conducted with 32 participants, across the same four age groups. Four everyday products were used in this experiment. The results of Experiment 2 show that, with previously unused products, younger adults demonstrate significantly higher levels of familiarity than the three older age groups.

The three oldest age groups had no significant differences between them.

The results of these two studies show that younger adults are more familiar with contemporary products than older adults. They also demonstrate that in terms of familiarity, older adults do not differ significantly as they get older. The results also show that the 45 – 59 age group demonstrate higher levels of familiarity with products they have owned, in comparison with those they have not. The two older age groups did not demonstrate such differences. This suggests that interacting with products over time increases familiarity more for middle-aged adults than for older adults.

As a result of this research, a method that can be used by designers to identify potential users’ product familiarity has been identified. This method is easy to use, quick, low cost, highly mobile, flexible, and allows for easy data collection and analysis. A tool has been designed that assists designers and researchers to use the method. Designers can use the knowledge gained from this tool, and integrate it into the design process, resulting in more intuitive products. Such products may lead to improvements in the quality of life of older adults, as a result of improved societal integration, better health management, and more widespread use of communications technology.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

92 since deposited on 30 Aug 2012
17 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 53410
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Popovic, Vesna & Blackler, Alethea
Keywords: intuitive interaction, intuitive use, familiarity, prior knowledge, prior experience, older adults, industrial design, product design, interaction design
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Aug 2012 04:33
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 01:51

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page