Blog 9

The United States population is aging, with people over 65 growing from “35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively” (Newcomb & Iriondo, 2017). Because older adults are becoming a larger part of the population, designers need to focus more on how to design for the elderly. Many changes occur when one ages. These changes, such as decreases in hearing, sight, and mobility, impact how one interacts with a system (Kroemer, 2006). In the home specifically, designers need to create spaces that allow older individuals to live safely and reduce age-related difficulties. Below I have outlined some considerations designers should think of based  on changes in hearing in an aging population.

Difficulty hearing and design
Products that have auditory alerts such as ovens and phones should always have the option to change their volume. This way, as a person ages they can simply change the volume of the alert instead of buying an entirely new product. It could be very dangerous if an older person were to forget that their oven is on because they can’t hear it beep.

The above image shows the application process for Serenity Sound Reduction Coating, which is a type of paint that helps soundproof rooms. Reference: Serenity Sound Reduction Coating. (2013). http://www.serenitycoating.com/assets/pdf/ Veneklasen_Testing_Results.pdf

Also, homes should be designed to reduce background noise “so that speech and important auditory signals have sufficient ‘penetration’” (Kroemer, 2006). There are multiple ways to reduce home background noise. For one, rugs can be placed to dampen noise. Also, home owners can apply Serenity Sound Reduction Coating, which is a type of paint that helps soundproof rooms. One issue with this however is that it can be rather difficult to apply. To the left is an image of the application process, showing that individuals must be able to spray on the paint. This could be very difficult for an older individual who has arthritis and less muscle mass and strength (Nagaratnam, Nagaratnam, & Cheuk, 2016). In order to make this tool more usable, the spray could be turned on with a foot peddle. Another solution to background noise issues is to buy a refrigerator that produces less noise. An article by Jeon, You, and Chang recommends that people always look at the noise rating of a refrigerator before purchasing it, as refrigerators are a main cause of ambient noise in homes (2007). Finally, one could buy the Netatmo (shown below) which is a home tool that measures ambient sounds. With this tool, an individual can understand the amount of noise pollution and see if they need to make any adjustments to their home.

The above image shows the Netatmo which is a home tool that measures noise as well as air quality, humidity and temperature. Reference: Netatmo Healthy Home Coach. https://www.netatmo.com/product/aircare/homecoach

References

Jeon, You, & Chang. (2007). Sound radiation and sound quality characteristics of refrigerator noise in real living environments. Applied Acoustics, 68(10), 1118-1134.

Kroemer, K. (2006). Designing for Older People. Ergonomics in Design: The Quarterly of Human Factors Applications, 14(4), 25-31.

Nagaratnam, N., Nagaratnam, K., & Cheuk, G. (2016). Musculoskeletal Systems. Diseases in the elderly: Age-related changes and pathophysiology, 275-286.

Newcomb, A., & Iriondo, J. (2017). The Nation’s Older Population Is Still Growing. Census Bureau Reports United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2017/cb17-100.html

2 thoughts on “Blog 9

  1. I never would have thought about a refrigerator as a cause of background noise. In general, it seems like it would benefit just about everyone to reduce noise pollution from refrigerators. I also like the idea about turning up the volume on a stove or oven, but am concerned that users might turn the sound all the way down – therefore causing additional issues – so it would be important to safeguard against it. Furthermore, I’m very curious about the device that measures background noise. Is it just a tool for measuring or does it offer solutions for noise or identify items that cause more noise?

  2. I think that buying refrigerators that produce less noise would definitely help older individuals be able to hear the important signal noise. I and almost everybody I know has definitely been fooled once or twice by refrigerators noises and got scared that somebody is in their house. I am unsure that simply turning up the oven sound would necessarily help an older individual hear the beep. I am also unsure of how else to fix this issue other than some sort of mobile application to alert the individual, but I am in agreement that the current sound is too quiet as I struggle to hear it.

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