Mobile Apps for Diabetes May be Challenging for Older Adults
Researchers identify usability problems (Aug. 31)
Diabetes is prevalent among adults aged 65 years and older and can lead to a number of other serious health issues. Maintaining control of blood glucose levels is one of the most important actions diabetics can take to control their illness. New technology is designed to make self-monitoring easier and more accessible, but technology products often fail to accommodate some older users.
Human factors/ergonomics researchers evaluated the usability issues that older adults may experience with one type of emerging technology — blood glucose-tracking applications for mobile devices. The researchers will present their findings in October at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) 56th Annual Meeting in Boston, according to an August 31 announcement from the Society.
Tracking apps for mobile devices are designed to log the multiple variables, such as food consumption and medication use, that influence blood glucose levels. These apps may incorporate other features to help diabetics monitor their blood glucose, including alarm-based reminders, educational tools, interactive forums, and report generators. Older users, however, may experience difficulty because of the declines in cognition, vision, and motor skills that can occur with aging or with the progression of the disease. If they can’t easily use tools that encourage active self-monitoring, they may stop using them.
The researchers examined three leading blood-glucose mobile apps to determine whether they present usability issues for older adults, particularly visual and physical obstacles. They found that even though these apps are rated highly, they may present a number of challenges for older adults.
Examples of potential design problems include pages with small text and poor color contrast, icons that enter into an alternate mode if the user holds the button too long, scroll wheels that obscure the page view, and a font size that decreases when the length of the text exceeds one line. Adults with poor vision, memory limitations, or declining motor skills are especially likely to encounter usability problems.
For more information, visit the HFES Web site.