There was one theory that I found particularly compelling called inhibition deficit theory. This proposes that ageing weakens inhibitory processes that regulate information that enters and leaves working memory. For older adults this means that irrelevant information gains entry into working memory that results in interference. This is the ultra-laymen explanation. If you want to read about it in detail then look at this paper (Age-related top-down suppression deficit in the early stages of cortical visual memory processing)
I thought that this concept explains a lot of the issues that older people have with complex and clutter digital interfaces.
I have just read about research conducted at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto. This found that there was a distinct difference in the cognitive efficiency of older adults depending on the time of day they were tested.
The study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging.
John Anderson, the lead author of the research said
Time of day really does matter when testing older adults. This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon.
Their improved cognitive performance in the morning correlated with greater activation of the brain’s attention control regions – the rostral prefrontal and superior parietal cortex – similar to that of younger adults.
Some of the implications that the researchers conclude from this research is that older people should schedule their most mentally challenging tasks for the morning time. Those tasks could include doing taxes, taking a test (such as a driver’s license renewal), seeing a doctor about a new condition.
You can read about the research on the Baycrest web site.
I have only just begun thinking about the implications of this research but it seems to me that it covers all areas of the older person’s life. A couple of thoughts about how this might impact the older consumer.
Financial services companies should schedule meetings with older people early in the day.
Where there are incentives for older people to shop on designated days then maybe there should be an added bonus for morning shopping.
We need to have a lot more information about the magnitude of the difference caused by time of day and what tasks are most affected. No doubt that it is a very useful ingredient to better understanding how best to improve the older customer experience and all parts of the purchase journey. Dick Stroud