As we get older, our body is subject to a complex set of changes that influences our vision, hearing, cognition and motor control. These changes affect the way we experience a computer system. Many established interaction paradigms are therefore not suitable for older adults. For example, the scrolling of text via touch gestures on a mobile display requires precise movement control that older adults may not have anymore. The variations of age-related changes demand a personalization of the user interface, which allows to address the individual needs and limitations of older adults. In the R&D project MOBILE.OLD, we provide a combined smartphone and TV-based service infrastructure with residential and outdoor services that is highly personalized and aims at advancing the mobility of older adults. Our contribution to the project was the implementation of a personalization library – suitable for Android devices – that brings personalization features to the services that are built upon it.

Common UI Concept

The developed library replaces some UI components of the Android standard library with compatible customized versions that allow for adapting the user interface in terms of visual theme, audio-tactile feedback, and font size. The library also enforces a standardized layout which is shown in the image below, consisting of a descriptive heading, a dynamic content area, and an action bar with standardized semantics. The action bar always offers ways to return to the home screen, undo/cancel the current action, and to perform the most relevant action in the current context. Such a standardized layout utilizes recognizability in order to boost ease of use and efficiency. It also makes it easier for users to get accustomed to other apps which have been built with our library. Since the UI components of the library are compatible with standard Android components, adding MOBILE.OLD features to existing applications requires little effort. The unobtrusive customization of standard Android UI components is achieved using Aspect Oriented Programming to separate various customization features into isolated modules.


Considering the varying capabilities and needs of older people, customizability is a vital part of MOBILE.OLD services. Inconsistencies in the look and feel across devices, however, can lead to confusion. In order to cope with this problem, the user model, containing all customizations, is synchronized across services and devices, backed by a cloud web service. Users can change their preferences in a management application that also provides an overview of all MOBILE.OLD services. Changes in the user model are propagated locally using a content provider, and across devices using Google Cloud Messaging push notifications. This ensures a consistent experience across applications as well as devices.

User profiles are synchronized instantly across applications and devices.

User profiles are synchronized instantly across applications and devices.

Developed Services

Based on the underlying personalization library, further contributions to the MOBILE.OLD project were the development of a set of services which allow older adults to prepare for certain mobility situations and assist them when they are mobile.

This service allows for the search and visualization of nearby points of interest (POI) as well as the geotagging of photos. The application provides a map- and list-based visualization of POIs and offers directions to a selected POI with spoken instructions using text-to-speech.

The quiz app should keep elderly users mentally and physically fit by sending them on a scavenger hunt. The users have to follow a pre-defined route, where only the direction and distance to the next location on that route is displayed on the mobile device. Once the user reaches this location, they have to answer questions in order to unlock the next point. These steps will continue, until the user reaches the end of the route. For each completed step, the user gets points.

The checklist application allows to create, edit and review checklists. The user is able to create a list from scratch by adding items consisting of text, audio or a picture. Individual reminders make sure users take their medication on time and don’t forget to keep up their daily routine.

The first aid application primarily provides guides to handle certain health emergencies as wells as general first aid and health-related advices. In addition, the phone numbers of national and international emergency services are displayed and can be called directly from the service.



2014 T. Birn, C. Holzmann, W. Stech – MobileQuiz: A Serious Game for Enhancing the Physical and Cognitive Abilities of Older Adults – Proceedings of the 16th International Conference Human-Computer Interaction (HCI International 2014), Crete, Greece, 2014. [springer]
2014 T. Birn, C. Ortner, C. Holzmann, W. Kurschl – A Generic Approach Towards Personalized Mobile Applications for Older Adults – Proceedings of the 7th German AAL Conference (AAL Kongress 2014), Berlin, Germany, 2014. [vde]


Thomas Birn, Christian Ortner, Clemens Holzmann
Department of Mobile Computing, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Austria
thomas.birn [at]

Werner Kurschl
Department of Software Engineering, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Austria
werner.kurschl [at]