Blogging in Place

Improving Internet Accessibility to Fight Loneliness

Sep 09 2019

By Jess Walter

A quarter of older adults over the age of 70 are lonely. This is a very serious statistic, considering that loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. For the 71 percent of adults over the age of 60 who wish to age in place, the internet is a valuable resource in the fight against loneliness. Improving accessibility is a must, to make sure that all older adults are connected and can enjoy having an active role in the community where they live. 

Changes in vision

By the time we reach the age of 65, a third of us have developed issues with vision. It is a common problem that includes diseases like glaucoma and cataracts, as well as age-related macular degeneration, which affects central vision. These kinds of vision impairments can change the way that we perceive color and can also cause contrast sensitivity. It is common to have difficulty with near focus objects, making it difficult to read web pages. To make a website easier to use for older adults, designers are much more mindful of color, and use bold text for key features. They are using layout and contrast to highlight important elements, making it more straightforward to navigate if you have issues with sight. 

Fine motor skills

A study that was published in Neuroscience Frontiers in Aging found that the degeneration of fine motor skills is common in the over 65s. It means that we lose dexterity and strength, and sometimes develop small tremors. It can make it tricky for common daily tasks, including opening doors or canned food, using pinching motions and writing. It can also make it difficult to use a computer mouse, zoom in to click on small items and use keystrokes. Web designers work to make sure that all features are completely accessible using a keyboard - particularly with the tab key. There always needs to be a clear indication of what you are clicking. Websites are also designed to be completely functional with speech recognition software. 

Considering hearing loss

A third of people over the age of 65 have a degree of hearing loss, and half of those over the age of 75. Common issues include tinnitus and conductive hearing loss, which causes everything from sound muffled to perceived hearing loss and causes distortions in sound. To make a website fully accessible, designers are now including transcripts and subtitles for all sound-related elements and videos. This way, there visual indications of whenever speech occurs. Utilizing sign language, especially when there is live streaming is also extremely beneficial. 

For anyone aging in place, the internet is a vital resource to connect with others and prevent loneliness. It has been predicted that by 2050, a quarter of Americans will be over the age of 65, and as a community, we need to make sure that the internet is completely accessible for everyone. This can help those aging in place remain connected to social networks. 

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