Examining the impact of familiarity on faucet usability for older adults with dementia

TitleExamining the impact of familiarity on faucet usability for older adults with dementia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBoger, J., T. Craig, and A. Mihailidis
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Date Published06/2013
Keywordsdementia, faucet usability, older adults

Changes in cognition caused by dementia can significantly alter how a person perceives familiarity, impacting the recognition and usability of everyday products. A person who is unable to use products cannot autonomously complete associated activities, resulting in increased dependence on a caregiver and potential move to assisted living facilities. The research presented in this paper hypothesised that products that are more familiar will result in better usability for older adults with dementia. Better product usability could, in turn, potentially support independence and autonomy.

This research investigated the impact of familiarity on the use of five faucet designs during 1309 handwashing trials by 27 older adults, who ranged from cognitively intact to the advanced (severe) stages of dementia. Human factors methods were used to collect empirical and self-reported data to gauge faucets’ usability. Participants’ data were grouped according to cognition (i.e., no/mild, moderate, or severe dementia). Logistic regression, ranking by odds, and Wald tests of odds ratios were used to compare performance of the three groups on the different faucets. Qualitative data were used in the interpretation of quantitative results.

Results indicated that more familiar faucets correlated with lower levels of assistance from a caregiver, fewer operational errors, and greater levels of operator satisfaction. Aspects such as the ability to control water temperature and flow as well as pleasing aesthetics appeared to positively impact participants’ acceptance of a faucet. The dual lever design achieved the best overall usability.

While work must be done to expand these findings to other products and tasks, this research provides evidence that familiarity plays a substantial role in product usability for older adults that appears to become more influential as dementia progresses. The methods used in this research could be adapted to analyse usability for other products by older adults with dementia.