Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science

First Advisor

Ahamed, Sheikh I.

Second Advisor

Kaczmarek, Thomas

Third Advisor

Madiraju, Praveen


As computing devices continue to become more heavily integrated into our lives, proper design of human-computer interfaces becomes a more important topic of discussion. Efficient and useful human-computer interfaces need to take into account the abilities of the humans who will be using such interfaces, and adapt to difficulties that different users may face – such as the particular difficulties older users must face. However, various issues in the design of human-computer interfaces for older users yet exist: a wide variance of ability is displayed by older adults, which can be difficult to design for. Motions and notions found intuitive by younger users can be anything but for the older user. Properly-designed devices must also assist without injuring the pride and independence of the users – thus, it’s understood that devices designed “for the elderly” may encounter a poor reception when introduced to the ageing community. Affective computing gives current researchers in HCI a useful opportunity to develop applications with interfaces that detect mood and attention via nonverbal cues and take appropriate actions accordingly. Current work in affective computing applications with older adult users points to possibilities reducing feelings of loneliness in the older adult population via these affective applications. However, we believe that everyday applications – such as chat programs or operating systems – can also take advantage of affective computing principles to make themselves more accessible for older adults, via communication enhancement. In this thesis, we document a variety of work in the field of developing human-computer interfaces for the older adult user, and the various requirements each of these studies confirm regarding human-computer interaction design for the elderly. We then explain how integration of affective computing can positively affect these designs, and outline a design approach for proper human-computer interfaces for the elderly which take into account affective computing principles. We then develop a case study around a chat application – ChitChat – which takes these principles and guidelines into account from the beginning, and give several examples of real-world applications also built with these guidelines. Finally, we conclude by summarizing the broader impacts of this work.