Academic journal article Visible Language

Visual Design of Interactive Software for Older Adults: Preventing Drug Interactions in Older Adults

Academic journal article Visible Language

Visual Design of Interactive Software for Older Adults: Preventing Drug Interactions in Older Adults

Article excerpt


This article reports findings from formative research conducted with older adults to identify desirable visual interface features for an interactive, educational software program designed for an older population. The features discussed address age-related visual and physical impairments common in older people. Findings include recommendations concerning illustration style and representation of the human figure, type size, face, and configuration of type, color relationships and basic interactive functions.

* Introduction

Preventing Drug Interactions in Older Adults is a study to determine whether an interactive, animated, software program, designed for the needs of older adults, can increase knowledge gains and subsequent health behavioral changes in a representative population of persons aged sixty years and older. An additional goal of the study is to identify and describe features of an interface design that may increase older user's comprehension and enjoyment of the program's content. This article discusses findings from a qualitative prestudy that informed design of the software program now being tested in a clinical trial.

* Research Objectives and Problem Scope

Before discussing specific findings from the prestudy, it may be useful to position them in the context of the larger project. The purpose of the study is to develop an effective intervention for reducing harmful interactions among prescription and over-the-- counter (OTC) drugs and alcohol in older adults living independently in their communities. The intervention has older adults use the educational software program on laptop computers equipped with infrared sensitive touch screens. Participants do not need to have prior experience with, or knowledge of, computers to use the program. The study is a scientific investigation that compares self-reported knowledge and behavioral outcomes for an intervention group with two control groups who do not use the computer program. It is an assumption of the study that in order for the findings to be valid, the interface must be designed to appeal to, and be broadly appropriate for, the learning styles and psychomotor skills of older adults.

* Scope of the problem

People over sixty are particularly vulnerable to injury from interactions among pharmaceuticals and other common substances. Members of this age group are likely to use multiple prescription medications for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and their drug metabolism rates are more variable than for members of the general population. They are also less able to hear, read and understand oral and written instructions (Bloom, et. al., 1993; Hanlon, et. al., 1992; Pollow et. al., 1994; Salzman 1995; Wallsten, et. al., 1995). Adverse drug reactions account for about seventeen percent of hospital admissions for the elderly, which is a rate almost six times greater than for the general population (USGAO, 1995). Failing to take medications properly is estimated to cost the health care system $25 billion annually, and results in ten percent of nursing home admissions costing $5 billion a year (Task Force for Compliance, 1994). In addition, drug interactions rank between the 4th to 6th leading cause of death in persons sixty-five and older (Lazarou, Pomeranz and Corey, 1998).

The study population for the project was defined as adults at least sixty years of age by self report who met criteria developed and validated by the MacArthur Research Program in Successful Aging to ensure a base-- level of independent physical and cognitive functioning (Wallsten,, 1995). In order to qualify for the study participants needed to be living independently in their communities and had to have visual acuity of at least 20/100 with corrective lenses. Participants also had to have health conditions that required prescription drug regimens addressed in the program (e.g., they must either use anticoagulants regularly to reduce stroke risk or antihypertensives to control high blood pressure). …

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