A model for a human factors based design guidelines handbook for residential living environments for the elderly
Pendergast, Brian Daniel
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The elderly in America represent a significant and growing population. One relevant engineering aspect of an aging population is the suitability of residential environments for the independent-living elderly. Engineers, architects, and designers are increasingly involved in the design and assessment of residential living environments for elderly persons. These designs should consider the fundamental principles and techniques of human factors to make certain that residential settings enhance independence and overall quality of life for the independent-living elderly. One way to help designers with this task is to develop a design guidelines handbook. However, to ensure designs are appropriate for the elderly, a prerequisite must be that guidelines are based on sound human factors principles. Creating a design guidelines handbook based in science requires a significant amount of work, in terms of understanding the aging process, developing guidelines, and validating the applicability of the guidelines. Therefore, developing these guideline sets and compiling into a handbook is outside the scope of this thesis. The role of this thesis is to bridge the gap between calling for the development and actually creating the handbook. Specifically, this thesis presents a model to categorize and analyze existing guidelines through use of a research matrix. The matrix provides a human factors based context to view existing work and highlights areas for additional research. This thesis also proposes the expansion of this matrix to be used as a framework for a future handbook. In addition to the above research matrix, a guidelines development methodology is proposed. The methodology is a process that focuses on developing guidelines based on human factors principles. After presenting the case for developing a guidelines handbook, and proposing a methodology to do so, a rationale to implement a handbook is described. This rationale concludes that the injury rates experienced by the elderly may, in some cases, be substantially reduced, by developing designs that accommodate the decreased functional abilities of the elderly. Developing human factors based guidelines and a handbook might ultimately help designers with this task.