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Understanding Patterns of Capability Loss Among Elderly Users

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The objective of this study was to understand patterns of capability loss among elderly users of products and services. Data from a longitudinal, population-based study were obtained for analysis, which recruited a representative sample of 13,004 people aged 65 years and over from five sites in Great Britain. Participants underwent a baseline interview during 1990-1994 and follow-ups at one, two, three, six, eight, and ten years. Those with full vision, hearing, thinking, locomotion, reaching, and dexterity ability at baseline were included in a survival analysis. Locomotion was the first ability to be lost, followed by reaching, thinking, hearing, vision, and dexterity. Women were consistently younger at capability loss than men except in terms of hearing. These findings suggest that capabilities required for product and service interaction follow a hierarchical pattern of loss, which has practical implications for design. Although improvements to reduce design exclusion are likely to require changes that address more than one demand, capabilities lost early in old age should take precedence over those lost later.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre series.

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