Last week RED went to Florida on a study visit looking at exciting new practice in public health and we learnt about Silver Sneakers...
Telecare in Scotland
Thousands of older and vulnerable people will be able to live more independently for longer thanks to an £8 million investment in new 'telecare' technology.
Telecare, which has been pioneered in West Lothian, involves people having a range of innovative monitors fitted to their homes. These can range from fall sensors and panic buttons to flood detectors, and are connected to a round-the-clock emergency call and response service. Telecare in West Lothian, thought to be the biggest project of its kind in Europe, was introduced five years ago.
Read more: here
Brain Age commercial
Spotted an advert last night for a brain game on Nintendo DS, which starts with an older man suddenly forgetting the name of the person he is trying to introduce ... toys to keep older grey cells ticking are finally hitting the mainstream UK market. Watch the US version on youtube.
PM embraces healthy living
RED set an ambitious agenda last year for healthy living. We set out to help people live well with diabetes and live active lifestyles as they grew older. Last week the PM made a speech embracing this agenda committing the government to action to tackle our unhealthy lifestyles. This is really welcome. Well done TB!
HCI conference workshop on designing with and for the elderly
The HCI 2006 Conference includes a workshop on designing for the elderly 'aiming to challenge our preconceptions of older users, address their distinct set of needs and explore innovative methods for designing for elderly with elderly' See the HCI conference website for details and registration
Date: Monday 11/09/2006 09:30
Life after work
Looking at my mother who will soon retire and some of my friend's parents who have started retirement, a range of different situations are visible. From someone who has been looking forward to retirement to someone who loved his work but finds himself unable to continue it. This might lead to depression which is a common problem for elderly people as the BBC Health site explains:
"Depression has particular causes and shows certain patterns in the elderly. For example, it's much more common in the years after retirement, when people may struggle to adjust to a new role and routine in life. It's then less likely for the next decade until they're in their mid-70s, when factors such as chronic illness, frequent loss of peers and friends, and increasing restrictions on mobility may be factors."
Can we design then for the post-work years, creating support groups or helping people cope with a new freedom they might not be accustomed to? Might it be the role of design to make the half empty glass look half full again, turning a loss into a gain? I think this is definitely an interesting alley to pursue. If you make someone have a positive outlook on the ageing process and feel supported then there are more chances that if a challenge presents itself, recovery will be swifter.
Do not design "special products".
I really like this RSA commentary which gives guidelines for designing for the elderly:
"1. Do not design 'special' products for elderly people.
2. The conventional approach to design through style or materials is obsolete.
3. Physical independence is the treasure. Design should encourage the body to work in a healthy way.
4. Find the balance between under-support and over-support.
5. Understanding good body use (what we should do) is far more important than data on what we can do'.
I think it's important for designers to realize that hand holding will get you nowhere with the elderly. They have literally "been there, done that" and we should design for their needs in a way that does not talk down to them or make them feel insignificant or that they are behind, especially when dealing with technology.
Humanity and a user-centered approach are essential tools when designing for the needs of that specific target group as it is now no longer acceptable to design from up on high, basing one's self on empirical data: "Ergonomic data may depict an articulated dummy to show what the body is capable of reaching. It is not part of design or ergonomic education to know whether such actions are healthy or natural. Elderly people may be able to reach a certain height, but should they?" A good read for product designers everywhere.
The End of Age
Tom Kirkwood talks in this 2001Reith lecture about his research on longevity and how we are now living longer than at any point in the history of man and what are the challenges we face in trying to extend our lifespan.
"With our longer life spans we are entering uncharted territory in which the challenges for individuals and societies are formidable. They are formidable not least because we cherish extraordinarily negative stereotypes of the ageing process. The stereotypes have, if anything, grown more negative as life expectancy has increased. Survival to old age is less of an achievement and as life has become more secure, the inevitability of eventual ageing seems more of an affront."
SEE THE FUTURE YOU IN SECONDS
Computer software is now available to show how individuals might look when they reach 65.
The software, developed by the University of St Andrews, artificially ages people's faces. Simply by providing a photograph and email address, people can be 'ageified' to see how they might look in later life.
It is being used to encourage people to think about their future and add their views to the Executive's consultation on the Strategy for a Scotland with an Ageing Population.
Rethinking end of life - more...
Turning nursing homes into green houses
A nursing home where you can create a life worth living
Where you can drive and not just survive
And where small is beautiful
Dr Dill Thomas author of "What Are Old People For: How Elders Will Save the World"
talks about his 'Green House' nursing homes.Audio here (after the video ad)
Package design for the elderly
This is a very funny description of Tetra pak's attitude towards their packaging and the elderly.
"When designing a new package for elderly people, you need to think along these lines: clear colours, good contrast, simplicity and no unnecessary frills. If you succeed, your designs will appeal to a large and growing target group."
"By fully understanding how the target group sees the world around them, you can then use good design and graphics to compensate for the deteriorating functions of the older consumer’s body"
I must be obsessed with Japan these days, but as one of the fastest ageing population, how could i not? This very good NY Times article talks about the disappearing villages of Japan.
The small village of Ogama, made up of 8 ageing residents, actually sold their village to an industrial waste company and with the proceeds will pack up everything and leave. They realized that they could no longer support themselves and had no future within the abandoned community. Although a drastic move, this is sure to be the first of many abandoned communities with the lack of proper care and support from the community or the government.
I find this disturbing in the way that culture will need to be addressed, what happens to people's stories and a place's history when they become transient? The habitants of Ogama are actually taking their tombstones with them! How can we prevent this from happening, from places to lose their trace in history and people to lose their sense of home and culture by being so nomadic. Isn't part of growing old to feel that you have contributed to the growth of your environment? that you have built up to something? What could be done to avoid "villages that have reached their limits"?
Toys for the elderly
I love hearing about how some problems are addressed in Japan. This BBC article talks about the market for toys for the elderly that is now booming in Japan. From a doll that appeals primarily to women over 60 to a previously mentioned adult version of Nintendo games, I find this fascinating that unlike some western toy companies who might want to stick to a younger market that's already suffering what is called "age compression" , the japanese are trying to expand their market, rapidly recognizing the trend.
As a majority of baby boomers reach the age of 60 , and enter retirement, the thirst for travel is growing and the flight industry needs to adapt. As this ABC news article describes, the elderly have much more money to spend on travel for travel's sake and therefore companies such as Boeing need to adapt and make their flights more "age friendly".
In my opinion, it's not simply about interior design which is what most of that article is about but more about rethinking the services around traveling and the flight experience, especially with the recent trend of trying to squeeze in as many people as possible and reducing leg space on certain national flights.
Dialing from your shirt...
Ah, the wonders of technology. An Ars Technica article elaborates on MEMswear a new technology embedded in clothing that would help communicate the state of an elderly person to their family and local authorities.
These networked objects do a little to solve some of the issues surrounding an elderly person's independence on an everyday level but very little to address the more important problems of infrastructures and health services available to a person in need. I think that technology is more powerful when it addresses some of the root causes of problems rather than try to efficiently react to problems as they arise.
Feeling like a rat lab with an electronic collar does not feel like the future...