Dr Emilene Zitkus gives evidence to Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry

Dr Zitkus at the Select Committee

Dr Zitkus giving evidence to the Select Committee

A Loughborough University academic was invited to give evidence to a UK Parliament Select Committee.

On 7 February, Dr Emilene Zitkus, Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Design at Loughborough University’s School of Design and Creative Arts gave oral evidence to the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee’s Inquiry on The rights of older people. Dr Zitkus had previously made a written submission to the Inquiry, which interested the Committee so they invited her to appear before them in person to answer their questions in more detail. The Policy Unit supported her in submitting her written evidence and prepared her for the oral question session.

The Inquiry is considering key issues facing older people in their full participation in society and examining whether the current policies in place are effective in addressing these challenges. This session looked specifically at how older people are at risk of being digitally excluded in society.

Dr Zitkus was questioned by members of the Committee on a range of issues during the session, including:

  • what best practice in digital support for older people looks like, particularly in the context of services moving online since the pandemic
  • the extent to which poor or thoughtless design is excluding older people, and how to spread best practice in more inclusive design of digital platforms
  • the case for additional accessibility/inclusive design requirements.

In her responses, Dr Zitkus drew on her research to emphasise the importance of understanding the lived experiences of older adults in navigating everyday services, such as banking or accessing their prescriptions. She discussed the need to ensure that older people have access to what she describes as ‘equally satisfactory alternatives’ to services, such as having telephone or in-person provision. She highlighted the need for older people to be able to live with dignity in an increasingly online society, drawing on the example of libraries across Oxfordshire as good practice.

This Inquiry was announced in September 2023, following the 2021 Census showing more than 11 million people were aged 65 years or older in 2021 – 18.6% of the population, up from 16.4% a decade earlier. It forms one of ten Inquiries that the Committee – Chaired by the Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP and comprised of eleven cross-party MPs – is currently running.

The Policy Unit Current Opportunities page outlines Select Committee Inquiries that are currently accepting evidence. This can be an effective way of increasing the profile of your research and using your work to achieve real-world impact.

About Dr Zitkus

Dr Emilene Zitkus is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Design at Loughborough University whose expertise is in human-computer interaction, digital inclusion, user-centred and user experience design. She has been teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. After her PhD (EPSRC funded) at the University of Cambridge, where she iteratively co-created inclusive design tools with practitioners, she has been using her user-centred, inclusive design and co-creation skills in research related to accessible interfaces and service design focused on healthy ageing.

Her research expertise in Inclusive Design has been developed during the last 13 years through projects developed within partners in industry, like Ford and Jaguar-Land Rover.

Emilene is a member of the editorial board of Design for Health journal; visiting Lecturer at UNESP; a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has experience in research management and development, as well as industrial experience in the automotive industry and automated technology industry, where she worked for more than 10 years and generated some design patents.

Loughborough University Policy Unit

Loughborough University’s Policy Unit provides a channel for the University’s research and researchers to realise productive and beneficial impact on public policy, at local, national and international level through promoting an evidence-based approach to practical on-the-ground projects responding to public policy challenges.

If you’d like to get in contact with the Policy Unit, please email policy@lboro.ac.uk, or call +44 (0)20 3805 1343.

Sandy Robertson Policy Communications Officer