The usability of water faucets for older adults with and without dementia: How important is familiarity?

TitleThe usability of water faucets for older adults with and without dementia: How important is familiarity?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsLi, Z., J. Boger, and A. Mihailidis
Conference NameSecond International Conference on Technology and Aging
Date Published06/2007
Conference LocationToronto, ON
Keywordsdementia, faucet usability, older adults

Among Americans 65 years and older, approximately 6–10% have dementia, with Alzheimer's disease (AD) accounting for two-thirds of these cases (Hendrie, 1998). While older adults with dementia generally have impairments in short-term and explicit memory, long-term and implicit memory are often relatively spared (Son, Therrien & Whall, 2002). It is believed that products designed for this population should focus on making use of functional abilities while supporting diminished ones by incorporating features that would be recognizable or familiar to users based on their previous experiences. The concept of familiarity and its impact on helping older adults with dementia preserve independent functioning has been extensively explored in architectural and environmental design (e.g. Küller, 1991), but has not received much attention within the field of product design.

The study proposed in this paper aims to provide insights into the impact of familiarity with the design of everyday products for older adults with a cognitive impairment. In particular, this study will examine the impact of familiarity and other design aspects, e.g. intuitiveness, on the use of different styles of water faucets by older adults, both with and without a dementia, through the comparison of various usability measures collected through the representative task of hand washing. Information collected from this study will be used to develop preliminary design guidelines for water faucets and other related hardware and controls, as well as to gain insight of how to design everyday products so that they take into account older adults with a cognitive impairment.