Using elderly as lead users for universal engineering design

Sujithra Raviselvam*, Meghann Noonan, Katja Hölttä-Otto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A design that adheres to all users' needs, can help us generate universally designed products. While nothing is as thorough as active co-design with end users, other less resource intensive approaches are needed as well. We investigate the concept of lead users as a source for ideas on universal design. Specifically we investigate how elderly i.e. people over the age of 65, can act as lead users while designing for the general population. The main idea behind this is that, the elderly may be able to articulate more needs when compared to the general population and the outcome attained by addressing these needs would be preferred by all. We propose a combination of product function and human activity based approach. The elderly survey participants are asked to indicate tasks which they have difficulty completing and universal design rules are derived using those results. We then empirically test the rules by designing set of products based on those rules. The products are then evaluated by both the general population and the elderly. We find that, the products designed by fixing elderly as lead users are either preferred over or equally to the existing products also by the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUniversal Design 2014: Three Days of Creativity and Diversity. Proceedings of the International Conference on Universal Design, UD 2014, Lund, Sweden, June 16-18, 2014
PublisherIOS PRESS
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781614994022
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication

Publication series

NameAssistive Technology Research Series
ISSN (Print)1383813X
ISSN (Electronic)18798071


  • Activity diagram
  • Elderly
  • Hand functions
  • ICF
  • Lead users
  • Universal designing

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