Labs Lessons: Conducting Research with Older Audiences
According to The World Economic Forum the ever ageing population is undergoing a major demographic and technological shift and recent studies have shown that these groups are increasingly embracing technology and telecare since Covid 19. However, for some, frustration and a lack of self confidence continues to hinder their ability to adapt to using new technology.
Clearly there’s a need for brands – from healthcare and wellness, to gaming and entertainment – to understand the needs, frustrations and motivations of this audience in a way that’s both meaningful and inclusive. In this second instalment of ‘Labs Lessons’ we unpack some insights from conducting in person research with older audiences.
Think carefully about how you group older audiences
- Prior to conducting research with older audiences, consider whether the research is being conducted specifically around generational differences, i.e. age, health conditions and identity, or to find out how confident the participant is at using a specified technology. Clarifying the purpose of the research will help with recruitment, ensure the research goals are met, and avoid grouping people into categories solely based on their age.
- Older audiences are often grouped into one 65+ age bracket. This arguably shouldn’t be the case – for most other age groups, there is a ten year period between categories. A 65 year old and a 95 year old are likely to have very different needs and expectations, for example.
- Seek to understand whether screening for specific ages actually helps answer your client’s research questions, or whether age groups are being conflated with other traits, such as employment status, health needs, or attitudes towards technology.
Seek to understand whether screening for specific ages actually helps answer your client’s research questions, or whether age groups are being conflated with other traits.
Focus on getting recruitment right
- Consider using specialised recruitment partners if you haven’t worked with certain age groups before. Depending on the focus of the research, it may be worth looking into working with agencies that have experience recruiting for older audiences or with a particular industry, if applicable (e.g. healthcare).
- Depending on the age group that you will be working with, consider recruiting more ‘spares’ in case participants are feeling unwell or are unable to travel in on the required day.
- Consider home visits for less mobile recruits. This may eliminate the need for them to travel and gives participants the chance to participate in a familiar environment.
- If asking participants to sign consent forms and other documentation, be sure to find out if anyone has accessibility needs (e.g. large font, use of screen readers).
- There can be ethical considerations that need to be taken into account when gaining consent from participants who may rely on professional carers or family members, or have diminished cognitive capabilities. Be sure to make yourself familiar with these.
As with any age group don’t assume that your participants are familiar with industry jargon and slang.
Running the sessions
- Mirror the language used by the participants. As with any age group don’t assume that your participants are familiar with industry jargon and slang. In the session, use the language that they are using to avoid the participant feeling as if you are correcting them. After all, we are testing a design or an idea, not the participant!
- If the participant has to read from a screen or printed material, be sure to have versions that are suitable for different levels of eyesight and consider having hearing amplifiers to hand – these needs can be screened for at the recruitment stage.
- When running remote sessions, a quick call beforehand is a must. If your screening process indicates that a participant is less comfortable with technology it can be helpful to find out if there’s a family member on hand to help out.
- Again, depending on the scope of the research, you may find that participants prefer to have someone else present during the session, such as a friend or family member. Be aware that at times, this can result in the observer unintentionally responding on behalf of the participant, so prepare for this.
Following the sessions;
- If the participant does rely on help from a family member or carer, make sure to leave your contact details with them and with the participant in case they need to get in touch on their behalf after the sessions have ended.
We hope these insights are helpful when planning research with older audiences who, in our experience, are some of the most perceptive and friendly people to work with. If you would like more information on the topics covered in this post, then get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. Look out for the next ‘Labs Lessons’ where we will be sharing tips for conducting research with participants who speak in different languages.