Designing inclusive products for everyday environments: the effects of everyday cold temperatures on older adults' dexterity

2012-06-14T13:56:53Z (GMT) by Edward Elton C.A. Nicolle
This paper focuses on the effect an everyday cold temperature (5°C) can have on older adults (+65 years) dexterous capabilities and the implications for design. Fine finger capability, power and pinch grip were measured using objective performance measures. Ability to perform tasks using a mobile phone, stylus, touch screen and garden secateurs were also measured. All measures were performed in a climatic cold chamber regulated at 5°C and in a thermo-neutral environment regulated between 19°C-24°C. Participants were exposed to the cold for a maximum of 40 minutes. Results from the study showed that older adult’s fine finger dexterity, ability to pick-up and place objects and ability to use a mobile phone was significantly (p<0.05) affected by an everyday cold temperature of 5°C when compared to performance in the thermo-neutral environment. However, power and pinch grip strength and ability to use the gardening secateurs was not significantly affected by the cold. Based these findings, the following guidance is offered to designers developing products that are likely to be used outside in an everyday cold environment: 1) Minimise the number of product interactions that require precise fine finger movements; 2) Try to avoid small controls that have to be pressed in a sequence; 3) Maximise the number of product interactions that can be operated through either exerting a gripping action (power or pinch grip) or by gross hand and arm movements.