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Janet Bewell
Janet Bewell

Akendi Alumnus

Dull Devices: Breaking Through Age Assumptions

Does anyone really feel their age?  I don’t mean whether or not you know what YOLO means.  (In that sense I am ok with being older, as I could never say it without a mocking voice.)  But really, what does it mean to be your age?  When people say, “wow, you don’t look your age!” I’m not going to lie, I feel great!  But then it makes me think…should I be more conservative?  Boring?  Unstylish?  Frumpier? No thank you! It makes sense why “mental age” is a term.

So then why, when making products for the ageing population, do we make them look so tired and medical?  This was exactly the question that was posed as a design challenge at Age UK’s ‘Hack for Living’ event that took place March 21-23 at the Facebook London offices.

The event was in part to launch the findings of Comodal (Consumer Models for Assisted Technologies) research, which examined customer requirements to develop a series of business models to support the ageing market. It was also to bring business owners closer to their customers.  A unique part of this 36 hour “hackathon” was that real users were interviewed by the 8 teams of designers and engineers, prior to the start of the event.  Existing user personas were expanded upon and used as a tool throughout the design weekend.

Ideas were largely focused around online groups that connect older users to events or skill exchanges.  My group, Polso, decided on a more experiential approach by using visual representations of pulse to connect people. Whether used to simply to feel secure that your loved ones are doing well, or used in a way to challenge one to relax or exercise more.

The key point of this design was to not make it about a one way monitoring device but something that people of all ages would want to share.

It could even go so far as changing the lighting in a nightclub - all those accelerated heartbeats triggering various bright lights as they dance.  Definitely not a dull medical device!

Though we were runners up, what made us feel like winners were the user reactions.  Something that was exciting, as well as useful.  It was an extremely inspiring weekend and the creativity of the teams was incredible and at no small thanks to the user centred design approach that was the hub of the innovation activities.

Janet Bewell
Janet Bewell

Akendi Alumnus

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