Digital Savvy

Monday, January 29, 2018

Usefulness: The 50+ Brain and Digital Technology


There are two presentations from Google Talks that I believe are helpful for those of us who are designing web pages or asking others to produce web pages, web sites, landing pages, and emails for the aging audience which is everyone over the age of 50.

Two hours of education will result in your work being more effective regardless of whether you are doing it yourself or asking others to do it for you or your organization. 

The first sets up the cognitive environment that relates to age.    

John Medina: "Brain Rules for Aging Well" | Talks at Google (54 minutes)

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and an affiliate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine, has a lifelong fascination with how the mind reacts to and organizes information. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Brain Rules: 12
Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School" -- a provocative book that takes on the way our schools and work environments are designed. Medina's book on brain development is a must-read for parents and early-childhood educators: "Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five." His latest book in the series is "Brain Rules for Aging Well: 10 Principles for Staying Vital, Happy, and Sharp.”

This is how Professor Medina’s presentation relates to the Web design presentation by Professor Johnson:

Professor Medina points out the peak years for cognition are 24 to 30 years old. The very age of many software (GUI) designers.  After 30 it’s all downhill meaning "age friendly is everyone friendly." Vocabulary peaks at 50. He also offers some good advice about keeping the neurons firing - be social and nostalgic especially about those years when you were 24 to 30. 

The second presentation is about making digital technology more useful to all of us. 

Jeff Johnson: "Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population" | Talks at Google (Hour, 10 mins)

This presentation addresses basic principles that will make a web environment or email more "usable" by your audience. Jeff Johnson and Kate Finn share valuable insights and practical advice from their 2017 book, Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population.

This talk presents some important facts about age demographics, gives an overview of sensory and cognitive changes that often occur with aging, and offers some basic age-friendly design guidelines.


Millennials may have officially replaced Boomers as the largest age group in the US, but there are currently over 111 million people in the US aged 50+. This cohort came of age before personal computers were even a thing. Being of a different technology generation and experiencing normal age-related changes present older people with significant challenges in navigating our ever-evolving technology environment. 

You may also want to read Professor Johnson’s book. I've posted most of the slides from his presentation here

Ruth Ann Barrett, Digital Savvy, January 30, 2017, Portland, Oregon.



Youtube Links:

Medina Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NujSdn1bg5k&sns=em
Johnson Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czjksAESHAo&t=755s