Studies on color for the elderly

  • While color psychology has a set of more or less accepted premises, it varies according to age, geographic and cultural differences (between other variables). Now I'm building an app for elder people in US and struggling a bit with color choices. National Institute of Aging has a nice and in depth document, however, when it comes to color it only says to use high contrast black on white colors, which is not an option for me. Nielsen has great insight on usability design for the elderly, but again, nothing about color

    I was searching on Google and an offline library, but couldn't find anything that helps me, so would like to ask if there's any CURRENT studies on color psychology for the elder, preferably restricted to US. Personal experiences from all great UX'rs around here greatly appreciated, of course!

  • Adit Gupta

    Adit Gupta Correct answer

    6 years ago

    While I was unable to get a direct empirical study about color psychology for elders, I have gathered a few resources that can answer your question.

    Resene is a color and paint technology company that published an article about using the right colors for elders. Quoting from the article:

    Older people can be drawn to soft pastels but they may not have the vitality of hue needed to stimulate the mind and mood. Eyesight problems can also impair how the colour is seen and what is seen.

    Softer shades of reds and oranges are warming and can help with circulation and energy levels. Peaches, apricots, warm tans, terracottas and pinks can also be used for this purpose. Reflecting on the past and thoughts of a spiritual future can also be reflected in colour choices. Soft blues, lavender mauves and violets are colours that connect to the spiritual or reflective mood. It is interesting to note that blue rinsed hair tints and lavender water are the province of the elderly lady.

    Studies carried out in nursing/rest homes indicate that soft pinky-beiges contrasted with soft blue/greens are soothing and peaceful. The judicious use of floral pattern can evoke the tranquillity of rural life and the simplicity of times past.

    They recommended the following color swatch:

    enter image description here

    enter image description here

    There's also a paper on Usability of car dashboard displays for elder drivers. It briefly discusses use of colors and icons. It also reiterates your point about using high contrast. You can also refer to other resources pointed out in this paper.

    Hope this helps!

    Adit, I had these palettes already, and researched on nurse websites and such, but I have found these palettes are meant to calm and relax, rather than create an impulse to perform an action or series of actions (which this app is for). Maybe this is the way to go, problem is that I have like 0 room to test (no time nor budget) so guess we'll see. Your link on "Usability of car..." is great and this is a great answer nevertheless!

    Thanks Devin! The paper also has a link to a comprehensive report about using colors in dashboard when designing for elders . But I think the free version is incomplete and I was unable to access the full one. I suggest to also have a look at SIGCHI. I will update the answer if I am able to find some more relevant papers there. If you want, I can also mail you to them.

    * mail them to you

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution


Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM