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!

4 Answers 4


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:

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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!
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:53
  • 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.
    – Adit Gupta
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:04
  • * mail them to you
    – Adit Gupta
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 17:32

I think contrasting colors are the key here, as eye sight weakens when we get older. But what are the colors elderly people prefer?

Seems that this is the question for which you should seek answers from other disciplines, first that came to mind was interiors of nursing homes and hospitals. Designers of these spaces might have some insights on the matter.

  • already checked that (see comment to Adit Gupta). Thank you for your help anyways!
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:54

Please have a look at the MIUI lite mode option (XIAOMI), it gives partial answer to your question.

About lite mode "The Lite Mode is good for first time smartphone users and the elderly since it doesn't overwhelm with the hundreds of options, settings and apps part of the Android smartphone experience. One can reboot to the full-fledged UI mode by going to the Settings app and disabling Lite Mode via the system settings."

few screenshots - http://webcazine.com/15095/miui-6-how-to-use-lite-mode-on-your-xiaomi-phone/

There are lot of videos available on MiUI lite mode on youtube.


Since the older generations primarily are used to consuming information in print, I think a good reference would be books and magazines that they read.

  • that was my first approach, but I really don't want to go monochrome (which is the recommendation)
    – Devin
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:58

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