University of Limerick
Ahmed_2020_ReDEAP.pdf (20.29 MB)

ReDEAP: Recommendations for developing smartphone applications for an ageing population

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posted on 2022-08-24, 08:59 authored by Bilal Ahmad
Context — The increase in the proportion of older adults (OAs) across the globe creates new challenges and opportunities. Technology in the context of smartphone applications has the potential to alleviate some problems of OAs, for example, social isolation and healthcare. Problem — The long-term up take of smartphone applications by OAs is low or unclear. To make smartphone applications useful for older adults, they should address physical and cognitive decline issues that differentiate this group of the population. It appears that developers of smartphone applications for OAs are not cognisant of their specific needs. The limited guidance provided by the current scientific literature to develop usable and accessible smartphone applications lack empirical derivation, validation and reflection on mainstream apps. Existing guidelines are piecemeal, confusing, contradictory, obsolete, incomplete and lack clarity in structure, classification and proper specification. Improvements in reporting format, characterisation and validation might improve adoption of these guidelines and reflection on apps for OAs. There is a need for Usability and Accessibility guidelines for industry, because most of the smartphone applications for OAs developed by them are ignoring these aspects. Objective — The aim of this research is to uncover the needs of OAs, transform them into a set of recommendations and make them available and actionable for developers. This objective is achieved by answering the key research question (RQ) “What do developers of smartphone applications for older adults need to do to make their applications usable and accessible for their target population? Methods — To address the key RQ, I took a mixed method approach. The first phase involved conducting a literature review on smartphone application development for OAs. In the second phase, I conducted an empirical study with a sample of 235 OAs with mixed levels of technical experience. As part of this phase I developed a proof of concept application. In the third phase, I conducted a further data collection based on observation of OAs’ interaction with their smartphones, and on-line forum analysis. To analyse the data, I utilised thematic analysis, descriptive and inferential statistics. Each phase yielded an augmented set of recommendations. The derived themes and recommendations were evaluated through conducting inter–rater reliability tests. In phase four, I transformed these recommendations into design patterns. Results — An initial set of 150 recommendations were derived and synthesized into 66 recommendations for Usability and Accessibility of smartphone applications for OAs. Two key types of recommendations (“Useful” and “Valuable”) for Usability of smartphone applications appeared to be overlooked in the literature. The initial set of recommendations was augmented with the expectations of technically proficient (tech-savvy) older adults. These combined recommendations form the basis for the design patterns, which I named ReDEAP (Recommendations for the Development of Smartphone Applications for the Ageing Population). The set of 44 extracted design patterns is the primary contribution to knowledge. Conclusions — This research produced an empirically derived and evaluated set of recommendations for the design of smartphone applications for OAs. The recommendations have a level of objectivity achieved through conducting inter-rater reliability tests with external researchers. ReDEAP also addresses the problem identified in the literature, that industry needs to take notice of the specific Usability and Accessibility needs of OAs, when designing smartphone applications for this section of the population.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Richardson, Ita

Second supervisor

Beecham, Sarah



Other Funding information




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