Engaging older adults with age-related macular degeneration in the design and evaluation of mobile assistive technologies

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Ongoing advances in technology are undoubtedly increasing the scope for enhancing and supporting older adults’ daily living. The digital divide between older and younger adults, however, raises concerns about the suitability of technological solutions for older adults, especially for those with impairments. Taking older adults with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – a progressive and degenerative disease of the eye – as a case study, the research reported in this dissertation considers how best to engage older adults in the design and evaluation of mobile assistive technologies to achieve sympathetic design of such technologies.

    Recognising the importance of good nutrition and the challenges involved in designing for people with AMD, this research followed a participatory and user-centred design (UCD) approach to develop a proof–of–concept diet diary application for people with AMD. Findings from initial knowledge elicitation activities contribute to the growing debate surrounding the issues on how older adults’ participation is initiated, planned and managed. Reflections on the application of the participatory design method highlighted a number of key strategies that can be applied to maintain empathic participatory design rapport with older adults and, subsequently, lead to the formulation of participatory design guidelines for effectively engaging older adults in design activities. Taking a novel approach, the final evaluation study contributed to the gap in the knowledge on how to bring closure to the participatory process in as positive a way as possible, cognisant of the potential negative effect that withdrawal of the participatory process may have on individuals. Based on the results of this study, we ascertain that (a) sympathetic design of technology with older adults will maximise technology acceptance and shows strong indicators for affecting behaviour change; and (b) being involved in the design and development of such technologies has the capacity to significantly improve the quality of life of older adults (with AMD).
    Date of Award1 Mar 2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJoanna M Lumsden (Supervisor)


    • age-related macular degeneration
    • older adults
    • user-centred design
    • participatory design
    • mobile assistive technology
    • diet diary

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