User research….working with the elderly

Today we started  a week where we will be focusing on skills that we can use to conduct user research and gain insights. The week is being run by Michelle, Oren and Elliot from Red Associates, a strategic design consultancy based in Copenhagen, Hamburg and New York. Throughout the morning we had presentations about different user research techniques and methodologies that can be used in the design process to gain insights. We discussed the pro’s and con’s of different tools ranging from cultural probes (originating from Bill Gaver and Tony Dunne) to Participant Observations. Although i have  extensively used, discussed and designed these tools and processes during my years as a designer it was still great to have discussions with people from more diverse backgrounds about them and to here their personal thoughts, especially when we went on to talk about specific case studies.

After some in depth discussion our task for the week was then revealed……

We will be visiting homes for the elderly to gain insights on the following topics:

  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of the SOCIAL LIFE for the residents
  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of improving PHYSICAL ACTIVITY for the residents
  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of improving AUTONOMY for the residents.

After brainstorming why these themes are important and the difficulties that might arise regarding them….we split into groups and identified  ‘burning issues’ we would like to investigate relating to each theme, these were:

Social Life

  • What transition does someone go through when moving into the home. Does the organization help them feel integrated and socially excepted
  • What are the common grounds between residents that can act as a starting point or catalysts for social interaction
  • What are the issues surrounding relationships, privacy and trust between the residents and staff.
  • Facilitating the elderly to make social contributions, give them a sense of achievement and involvement.
  • Individuality…how does the resident keep their personality and individuality when they are dependent on others in a lot of areas in their life.

Physical Activity

  • What facilities do they have to allow physical activities, it is encouraged and make appealing to the residents.
  • How often do the elderly leave the home to go on visits of excursions….and see the real world- do they have an input into this.
  • How can physical constraints affect mobility, day to day activities and social interactions,is their stigma attached to it specifically within the home.
  • Issues surrounding rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Using exercises to help medical related problems. Choice and compatibility of exercise.

Autonomy

  • Can the residents have an input into their daily routine and make decisions about their day to day activities
  • What is the mindset of the residents do they enjoy being looked after by the carers or are they frustrated by their lack on independence
  • The residents have a lot of life experience and different competences, are they allowed to help other residents, in support or any other expertise they might have.
  • Do the residents feel  that the help they receive makes them feel ‘safe and supported’ or ‘controlled’

For each issue we created a series of questions to ask the staff and residents that will hopefully trigger thoughts and opinions when we are taking to them.

During our visits we will use other research techniques to engage with the residents and the front line staff to gain a deeper understanding and empathy for their experiences within the home. After gaining our insights we will analyze our findings and use them in our first GUI investigation that starts next week.

We will be visiting two different elderly homes tomorrow and wednesday, which will be great to make comparisons. I will report back soon!

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