Designing Connected Aging Experiences
Working at the Business Innovation Factory, funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Role: Design Researcher and Experience Designer
Skills and Methods:
Ethnographic Interviewing and Shadowing
Participant Relationship Diagramming
Participatory Design Facilitation
To see the full report of the research, opportunities, and solution concepts, click here.
Connected Aging is an exploration into the aging experience, including a deep, ethnographic dive and solution concepts for reimagining aging through the lens of social connection and participation.
Growing older becomes a growing problem to be solved. It encourages responses such as assistive technologies designed to monitor those aging in place or mitigating the strain the aging population will place on civic infrastructure. Seen through these lenses, we limit the possibilities and choices we have as we age. We limit our agency as we age.
It’s time we see age differently. Through the lens of social connection, the possibility space for older adults widens beyond the limited concept of aging in place to that of living a long life full of contribution, accomplishment, and joy.
George Valliant said, "Joy is connection. The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.” Where and how do older adults connect? Using human-centered design methodologies, we engaged 33 elders living a connected life. What we learned from them firsthand has led us to design concepts for later years that connect people to each other, to place, and to community.
Over three months, we interviewed 33 elders from four states (CA, RI, NC, MA), including individuals, couples, and groups of friends. Our research participants were 65 - 93 years old, and living independently—defined as the ability to make decisions for one’s self, including control over planning and conducting day-to-day activities. We shadowed some of these elders at work, at social gatherings, and conducting their day to day activities. In addition to spending time with these elders, we observed interactions in grocery stores, malls, libraries, cafes, and bookstores, and visited formal programs like Meals on Wheels, Senior Centers, artist studios, and adult learning centers.
Participatory Design Studio
To move these opportunities into ideation, we hosted a Participatory Design Studio for elders and other creative individuals to re-imagine the aging experience. Together, we brainstormed solution concepts for each of the opportunities using prompts (example at right). To see the ideas and to learn more about the work, see the report.