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Posts in category 'Elderly'

30 April 2009

NESTA’s Age Unlimited project

Ageing
NESTA, the UK Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, just announced that it has undertaken research which leads it to believe the UK is unprepared for ageing. Just under a third of all pensioners live on or close to the poverty line and twelve million people – half the UK workforce – are putting nothing aside for old age. Demographic patterns mean these trends are getting worse and the UK is failing to find new solutions, focusing instead on existing services and initiatives.

NESTA’s Public services innovation Lab is responding by launching a programme that will design innovative new approaches to create sustained personal well-being for an ageing society. The aim is to get people in their 50′s to plan earlier for old age, when they are in a position to make informed choices about the type of lifestyle they want to lead.

‘Age Unlimited’ will call on policy makers and this new generation of Third-Agers – people aged 50-70 – to shift the focus from retirement to being prepared for ageing. It will experiment with ways of extending working age and social participation and strike a better balance between the contribution and costs of an ageing society in the UK.

A call for ideas has just been launched.

Associated materials

Preparing for ageing
This report (summaryfull report) commissioned by NESTA from Deloitte describes the challenge of an ageing society, assesses the role that innovation is currently playing in meeting this challenge, and identifies where innovation needs to be harnessed more fully. It covers the public, private and voluntary sectors, across five areas: housing; the local environment; health and social care; personal finance; and social inclusion.

The new old age
Perspectives on innovating our way to the good life for all. A collection of essays that form part of our first Lab ‘Accounts’ and complement our Research Summary – ‘Preparing for Ageing’.

Voices of older people (video)
An introduction to what older people feel about the ageing process and their attitudes to retirement in the UK. This film supports the work of The Lab from NESTA as part of our Age Unlimited work.

11 February 2009

Seismic shift in Internet age mass

PEW_logo
According to surveys through 2008 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, larger percentages of older generations [in the United States] are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online. Generation X (not Y) is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email.

The biggest increase in internet use since 2005 is the 70-75 year-old age group. While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online, and doing more activities online.

- Read full article
- Additional information and PDF download

(via Customer Experience Crossroads)

24 November 2008

Easy-to-use, intelligent technologies to extend independent living for the elderly

Episodic memory
Press release:

IBM is announcing a collaborative effort with European Union partners to develop new technology that will help support active aging and prevent cognitive decline in the elderly population.

Based on intelligent audio and visual processing and reasoning, the “HERMES Cognitive Care for Active Aging” project will develop a combination of home-based and mobile device-based solutions to help older people combat the natural reduction in cognitive capabilities. The three-year project includes a special focus on developing an interface that will be comfortable for technology-averse users.

The HERMES project brings together experts ranging from gerontology and speech processing, to hardware integration and user-centered design to achieve the common goal of cognitively supporting older people.

Read press release

12 November 2008

Using design to crack society’s problems

Hilary Cottam
Hilary Cottam is the 2005 UK Designer of the Year and former director of RED [archive site], the meanwhile closed innovation unit of the UK Design Council. I interviewed her last year for Torino World Design Capital site. And she is suddenly hot.

She made it last week into the International Herald Tribune, and now you can read another story about her company Participle in Fast Company magazine. Both stories are written by the same author Alice Rawsthorn, but have a somewhat different angle.

Participle isn’t a conventional bunch of social workers or do-gooders. It’s a design team. Participle’s interdisciplinary crew includes anthropologists, economists, entrepreneurs, psychologists, social scientists, and a military-logistics expert, but it is driven by design techniques and headed by Cottam, 42, who also has used such strategies to tackle the shortcomings of Britain’s school and health systems. “Hilary’s — and my — favorite kind of design has to do with making people’s lives better, often taking account of their mundane daily concerns,” says Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “Her projects not only work, they give people a sense of hope and strength.”

Cottam is one of a new wave of design evangelists who are trying to change the world for the better. They believe that many of the institutions and systems set up in the 20th century are failing and that design can help us to build new ones better suited to the demands of this century. Some of these innovators are helping poor people to help themselves by fostering design in developing economies. Others see design as a tool to stave off ecological catastrophe. Then there are the box-breaking thinkers like Cottam, who disregard design’s traditional bounds and apply it to social and political problems. Her mission, she says, is “to crack the intractable social issues of our time.”

Read full story

23 August 2008

Italian virtual cemetery judged too cold

Turin cemetery
More Italian news on how communications technologies are penetrating people’s daily lives, and sometimes create frictions:

The Italian newspaper La Stampa reports on plans for a virtual cemetery in Turin to commemorate those cremated, apparently developed without public consultation (my condensed translation):

The project is not yet implemented, but is already subject of debate. The high-tech cemetery is not liked. Virtual tombstones and monitors with the names of the deceased seem to be in contradiction with the wishes of those who chose for cremation and not leave their traces in the earth. So, technology and prayer still seem incompatible concepts.

The Turin municipality plans to provide family members with a place where they can gather to commemorate the deceased. As of 1 November, there will be three displays at the entrance of Turin’s main cemetery. Two of them contain the names of the over 4000 deceased, those who do not even have a small box that contains the urn with the ashes. The third monitor is reserved to the virtual tombstones: each visitor can access, with a personal code, the page with a photo of their dear one, their date of birth and death, and an epigraph. A tombstone in other words. Or better, an image of a tombstone.

The idea made some people smile, others however cringed at the thought.

Ines Poletto approaches one of the four (stone) cenotaphs, makes the sign of the cross, and says: “Who has chosen to be in here doesn’t want a photo or an epigraph. It may be difficult to accept for those who remain behind, but we need to respect the wishes of those who are no longer with us.” Carla Costa, 52, whose father also preferred the cremation, is of the same idea: “Those who made this decision did not want visibility. Why put their name and photo on a screen? It is not right to put them in a box now, even though it is a virtual one.”

Margherita Bertin reacts ironically: “I understand the importance of the computer, try to stay up-to-date, and know how to send emails, but this thing about the dead on the internet…” The use of new technologies in this context doesn’t even convince the younger generation. Claudia Cicirelli, 28, thinks the idea of the municipality is “crazy”, because “connecting the memory of the deceased with technology cancels the emotional side of the loss.” A clear no also from Laura Garolla: “This is buffoonery. They are now also making a business out of the dead. If I want to see a photo of my father, I can always do so in a family photo album. I don’t like the idea of seeing his photo on a screen at the cemetery.”

17 July 2008

Ageing in England

Ageing
If you are interested in the elderly, two interesting UK studies were published this week.

The first report, “Living in the 21st century: older people in England” (press releasestudy download) presents a major longitudinal study (316 pages) about the reality of ageing in England. It covers employment, material well-being and poverty, health, quality of life and independent living.

(via FutureLab)

The second study, entitled “Don’t stop me now – Preparing for an ageing population“, (press releasestudy download) illustrates how unprepared the UK Councils are for this ageing population.

“The report asked older ‘mystery shoppers’ to identify the everyday challenges they face in accessing council services. They approached 49 councils asking a series of questions and found that most councils need to improve the way they provide information in key areas such as volunteering, leisure and social activities, learning opportunities and transport.”

24 June 2008

European Council of Ministers approves 600m euro project for new digital solutions for the elderly

Ageing
Now also Europe’s Council of Ministers approved a major €600m for development of new digital solutions for Europe’s elderly people.

“By 2020, 25% of the EU’s population will be over 65. To respond to this growing demographic challenge, the Council of Ministers approved today a Commission plan to make Europe a hub for developing digital technologies designed to help older people to continue living independently at home.

The proposal, presented by the Commission on 14 June 2007 [see earlier post], will provide some additional €150 million funding to a new European Joint Research Programme, resulting in a total investment of over €600 million.

Through this new programme companies will be able to develop highly innovative digital products and services to improve the lives of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general. Smart devices for improving security at home, mobile solutions for vital sign monitoring and user friendly interfaces for those with impaired vision or hearing – all of which will improve the quality of life of elderly people, their careers and families. [...]

20 EU Member States, as well as Israel, Norway and Switzerland will participate in this Joint Research Programme.”

Read full story

24 June 2008

Mito Akiyoshi: the digital divide does not vanish with the mobile

Mito Akiyoshi
The great people at the splendid French blog InternetActu have conducted an interview with the Japanese sociologist, Mito Akiyoshi. Since InternetActu is published in French, and I have been pushing them time and again to make the rich contents of their blog also available in English, they have offered us to co-publish this interview in English — the language it was conducted in. It was not difficult to accept the offer and I thank Hubert Guillaud in particular for this opportunity. If you read French, go read it here.
 

Mito Akiyoshi (blog) is a Japanese sociologist at Senshu University. She also collaborates with sociologist Izumi Aizu on a NTT research programme on privacy and identity. The interview provides us with an opportunity to take a unique look at what is happening in Japan: it allows us to not focus on the technology, as is so often the case, but on how this technology is used, which is often more varied and complex than one might think.
 

DIGITAL DIVIDE IN JAPAN?

InternetActu.net: You have worked on the digital divide in Japan. We in the West often have the impression that the digital divide does not exist in your country where the mobile phone is so pervasive. But is that really so? Do all people really have equal access?

Mito Akiyoshi: There is a growing consensus among researchers in Japan as well as abroad that the digital divide is not just about having Internet access or not. It is also about the type of use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) and the goals of that use. In order to understand the implications of the mobile phone on the digital divide, we have to start with a broader definition of the digital divide itself, which needs to encompass all activities mediated by technologies. Due to the mobile phone we are now facing a mixed reality: it is a glass that is both half-full and half-empty.

Japan is indeed a global leader in mobile telephony: the mobile phone has brought ICT to those who would otherwise not have used technology. Yet the mobile phone has not eliminated the digital divide at all. My research shows that existing patterns of inequality strongly influence the type of technology and technology use certain kinds of people exhibit. Generally speaking, there are three types of ICT users in terms of access to hardware: “Literati” are those people who use both computers and mobile phones. A second group consists of a fairly large number of people who use mobile phones but rarely use PC’s. The third group are those who use neither. The last group is obviously decreasing now because of the pervasiveness of the internet, but even the second group could be considered on the wrong side of the digital divide — unable to make the most of ICT.
 

UNIVORES AND OMNIVORES

All of that would be OK if the choice was just that: a matter of choice. But often it isn’t. Web contents accessed on a computer are quite different from those accessed on a mobile device. For example, my research shows that respondents use a PC for professional reasons and to access government services. The use of a mobile phone however is mainly limited to entertainment related activities. Those who use mobile phones and not the PC tend to be less educated, less wealthy, and/or female. So, their reliance on their mobile phone and their non-use of the PC could also be interpreted as perpetuating a less privileged status.

I am still looking for good labels to identify these different types of users, and in particular those who use the mobile but not the PC. The distinction between “univore” and “omnivore” as used in cultural sociology could be useful. The “univores” refer to people with limited cultural resources who consume just one type of genre, e.g. hip-hop. The “omnivores” on the other hand are endowed with rich resources: they enjoy multiple genres. According to this view, the distinction between middle class and working class is not based on their preference for particular genres, but rather on their ability to consume a wide range of cultural products. So based on this logic, I could probably use the term “mobile univore”.

InternetActu.net: What does the mobile phone prevent that the combination of internet and mobile enables?

Mito Akiyoshi: Studies have shown that PC Internet users acquire new ICT skills as they become more familiar with the web. It is a virtuous circle. Initially you go online to address a particular need, but then you discover other services and applications and you do a lot of “learning by doing”. The PC Internet encourages people to explore. The mobile Internet on the other hand provides only basic internet related services, which are often limited to entertainment and leisure activities. The mobile internet is rarely a channel for serious, productive activities. Even the content and service quality differs. Although you can read news on both the computer and the mobile phone, news items on the mobile tend to be brief and sketchy, because of space limitations. If you read news and opinion stories in the newspaper or on a PC, you can learn a lot. But if you read news summaries on the mobile phone, you miss out on this learning opportunity.
 

A POLICY ISSUE

InternetActu.net: How to promote passing from mobile tools to internet tools, when uses are not really the same?

Mito Akiyoshi: First of all, I think we should acknowledge both quality and quantity of contents and services are of the utmost significance. Access to them are legitimate global, national and local policy issues, but are hardly recognised as such. For example if you know that mobile users do not get information of equivalent quality to those on PC internet, you could modify the way you present the information. If you would like to mobile phone use for productive activities, you can improve the design, the interface, and the services. Mobile Internet has been entertainment-driven because mobile internet service providers saw entertainment related services as the most lucrative business. But policy makers can intervene and encourage technology development that contributes to wider social inclusion and participation.
 

THE JAPANESE FASCINATION WITH THE MOBILE

InternetActu.net: The West has a certain image of the use of technology in Japan: omnipresent, very focused on the mobile, with a population fond of everything innovative. Does this picture correspond to reality?

Mito Akiyoshi: Well, the Japanese are fond of certain innovations. But one should also note that Japan lagged behind other industrialised countries with respect to basic Internet connectivity during the 1990s. So my short answer to this question is yes and no. The explosion of mobile telephony must be put into perspective, rather than being taken as a sign of general enthusiasm for all innovations. Some innovations take root at a phenomenal speed while others are sadly abandoned.

But Japan’s fascination with mobility may be peculiar to them. The obsession with mobility, cuteness, and miniaturisation are repeatedly brought up in popular discourse as part of the essence of Japanese culture. But as a social scientist, I want to explain them. The fascination with mobility is a consequence of our lifestyle. Tokyoites spend long hours commuting by train with plenty of time to play around with their mobile phones. Unlike people in Europe and the U.S., the majority of Japanese have not experienced a smooth transition from the typewriter to the computer. Some users actually prefer the mobile phone simply because they are not comfortable working with a keyboard. Those people use their mobile phones for reasons that have little to do with their portability. The popularity of the mobile phone in Japan is actually quite a complex phenomenon.

That said, their quirky tastes might help discover and popularise certain innovations in an unexpected manner. The camera/video mobile phone is one example that comes to my mind. At first, the idea appeared strange. But the Japanese loved camera phones for whatever reasons and have made them popular in other parts of the world.
 

THE FUTURE OF MOBILE

InternetActu.net: Japan seems ahead because consumers already use the mobile to access online contents, and this will become the future everywhere. But you seem more sceptical.

Mito Akiyoshi: Japan is indeed one of the leaders in mobile Internet services. Although I raised some issues about the causes and current use of mobile Internet, there are lots of reasons to believe that a wider use of mobile and ubiquitous technology will create better communicative environments in Japan and elsewhere. But it is simplistic to assume that the mobile phone in and of itself can solve the deep-rooted problem of digital inequality. But it does help people to get online and to maintain their social networks. The Japanese have enthusiastically taken up the mobile Internet when it first became available in the late 1990s, because they thought it would fulfill their needs.

Now we have to redefine those “needs” or “demands” in the light of the future society we intend to create. Up until now there has been little discussion about the basic values ICT should focus on. Mobile technology holds a key to the realisation of fundamental social values, such as human captial development, equality, sustainable development, democracy, etc., but it does not automatically make it happen.

I am not sceptical, but rather cautiously optimistic because we need a better understanding of the existing problems and a better vision for the future to fully realise the communicative possibilities offered by mobile technology.
 

OUR UBIQUITOUS BUT LOCALLY EMBEDDED LIVES

InternetActu.net: There is a lot of talk these days about geolocation as the future of the mobile, allowing a synthesis of social networks and mobility. Did geolocation use explode in Japan and why?

Mito Akiyoshi: There are some interesting uses of mobile geolocation technology in Japan, such as the otetsudai network which is basically a job search service accessed via a mobile phone, allows people to find a job or an employee “on the spot”. Geolocation services enable micromanagement of time, space, a job slot, and even a worker. Even in the age of globalization, our day-to-day life is locally embedded and mobile technology serves locally embedded needs quite well.

InternetActu.net: In terms of government action, the focus seems to have evolved from e-Japan (a fairly classic approach to Internet access and use) to u-Japan, seen as a more futuristic plan focussed on ubiquitous information availability. What is the reality of this programme now?

Mito Akiyoshi: To answer such a question, the first thing one might want to do is to go to a government website to do some research on the u-Japan project. But if you do that, you realise that the search functionality on government websites is a real mess. Search information on any specific issue on a Japanese government website and you will share my frustration. One cannot get the information one is looking for. This very fact affects my evaluation of the u-Japan project.

U-Japan was successful in providing the nation fast Internet connection and improving government services. In areas such as tax preparation and business filings, great progress was made and the u-Japan project should be given due credit.

But there are some goals still to be accomplished as illustrated by the mediocre search functionality.

Let me give you another example: When I consult government statistics, I often get a lot of Excel tables. I rather need a decent query system so that I can combine variables and create the tabled results I need.

Ubiquity is all fine, but ubiquitous solutions must be user-friendly solutions as well.
 

THE DIFFICULTY OF COMPREHENDING THE PRIVACY AND IDENTITY CHALLENGES

InternetActu.net: You work with Izumi Aizu on a NTT research programme on privacy and identity. Can you tell us more about the objectives of this programme and its first results?

Mito Akiyoshi: NTT is a very interesting organisation. They do not ask us to do research to maximize their profit on a short-term basis. They came to us with no specific agenda and asked us tell them “something interesting about privacy and identity.” So we devised our research objectives on the fly.

We investigated national identity projects as well as business identity management projects. I like to think that the fact that we didn’t find strong trends is one of our major findings. Not that we came back empty-handed: there is a huge information asymmetry between the various parties involved. For example, I contacted a recruiting company for my research, but they could not come up with good interviewees because the issue is too technical. Only one interviewee I talked with said he was interested in the issue of identity management.

The issue of privacy and identity is very relevant to everyone but it is difficult to bring home to everyone its relevance when it involves so many technical details. Unfortunately many decisions that have real social implications are removed from the public discourse and are reduced to technical matters. How do you explain the notion of search engine privacy to your grandma or even to your boss for that matter? Or the possible privacy breach with the introduction of IPv6 due to its addressing mechanism? They may not comprehend the issues, although they are relevant to them. We found that there is no common language to start a productive discussion about the way those issues are handled by governments, businesses, researchers, and community leaders.

InternetActu.net: You point the finger at strong concerns about privacy issues, even though we in France tend to believe that these issues do not have the same impact in Japan, because of cultural differences. So are privacy concerns similar in Japan and in the West?

Mito Akiyoshi: This is an interesting question. Of course France and Japan are culturally quite different, but France is also quite different from the UK, the US, Germany, and other countries that supposedly constitute “the West.” I do not want to ignore differences between countries, but I would like to balance “between-country” differences with “within-country” differences. I do not know if it is appropriate to bring privacy concerns back to “cultural differences,” but the issue of privacy does manifest itself differently in different societies. For example, racial profiling is a big issue in societies with diverse minority populations. I do not say that it does not exist in Japan. But it is less central there than in the US, for example.

One way to address cultural differences is to look for social problems that affect a society in particular. If the Japanese have reservations about a national identity card system, it may be because their trust in the government’s handling of personal information is low. The national pension system is mismanaged and its failure is a huge scandal here right now. Those who are entitled to pension money were not given their money because the agency in charge did not handle the records properly.

What kind of attitudes prevail in France regarding the issue of privacy and what kind of factors — cultural, social, political, or economic — may explain those attitudes? I think I have more questions than answers to this question.

18 May 2008

Danish programme for user-driven innovation

Danish programme for user-driven innovation
The Danish programme for user-driven innovation (English summary) aims to strengthen the diffusion of methods for user-driven innovation, and to contribute to increased growth in the participating companies, and to increased user satisfaction and/or increased efficiency in participating public institutions.

The programme should also result in the development of new products, services, and concepts. Finally, the programme should increase the qualifications of employees to take part in the innovation processes in the participating companies and public institutions.

The programme, which has a yearly budget of DKK 100 million (13.4 million euro or 20.9 million USD) and runs for four years, 2007-2010, is administered by Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority, which is part of the Danish Ministry for Economic and Business Affairs.

The activities are grouped in three areas: strategic, regional, and other important areas.

The strategic effort concerns three broad thematic areas: (1) areas where Denmark has particular business skills (e.g. environment and energy technology, construction, health, design and food); (2) cross-sectoral issues relating to social problems with promising market potential (e.g. healthy and energy saving construction, or fighting obesity); and (3) welfare areas, in particular where the citizen interacts with the public sector (e.g. care for children and elderly citizens and the health sector). Fifteen projects are currently running:

  • Indoor climate and quality of life – more in Danish
  • Service renewal in practice – user-driven service innovation in small artisanal companies – more in Danish
  • Accessible packaging for the elderly and the functionally impaired – more in Danish
  • Innofood – employee and user driven innovation in value chains – more in Danish
  • User-driven mobile community – more in Danish
  • User-driven innovation and communication of textile qualities – more in Danish
  • The future’s interactive convenience store – more in Danish
  • Future waste systems – more in Danish
  • Coherent patient process – more in Danish
  • A good life for the elderly – more in Danish
  • The healthy way – more in Danish
  • Lead user-based entrepreneurship (in collaboration with Lego and MIT) – more in Danish
  • New product development with lead users (in collaboration with Grundfos and MIT) – more in Danish
  • Intelligent utility – more in Danish
  • User-driven innovation and strategic design – more in Danish | English

Desinova is the name of this last project, an historic, systematic, and longitudinal study of strategic design and co-creation innovation in services happening now in Denmark. The project’s outcomes are expected to have global implications for innovation in industry and civil society.

The Desinova project objectives are:

  • to generate ten successful service innovation projects;
  • to make participating service companies and agencies more capable of service innovation;
  • to develop a Service Innovation Model that explains how service company personnel, strategists, marketing people, designers, anthropologists and users successfully co-create;
  • to evolve policy recommendations for business, education and research.

The regional effort ensures that knowledge of and experience with methods for user-driven innovation is disseminated throughout the country. Regional actors in each of the country’s six geographic regions organise a yearly project in their region:

  • Copenhagen Innovation Center (Capital Region) – more in Danish | English
  • Handicaps – a knowledge resource to better aids (Central Jutland Region) – more in Danish
  • Tele home care – chronic patients and the collaborating health services (North Jutland Region) – more in Danish
  • Healthy meals for hospital patients (South Denmark Region) – more in Danish
  • Bornholm’s harbour – the hidden treasures (Bornholm Island) – more in Danish
  • User-driven innovation in value chains (Zealand Region) – more in Danish

The third area of effort covers applications from projects that work with any other important issues, businesses and institutions, notd covered by the strategic or regional effort, such as the 180º Academy and the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

More info:
- Presentation by Dorte Nøhr Andersen, Head of Division, Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority – (pdf)
- Presentation by Lars Bo Jeppesen, Director, Danish User-Centered Innovation Lab, Copenhagen Business School – (pdf)

30 April 2008

Microsoft developing ‘senior PC’

senior PC
Microsoft UK is developing a “senior PC”, which will have a simple interface and be aimed at older users, writes Jane Wakefield on BBC News.

The machine will come software that allows users to manage prescriptions as well as simplified tools for everyday use, such as managing photos.

The machine, which it is developing in partnership with charities Age Concern and Help the Aged, is one of several projects the firm is working on.

The plans were unveiled at a Digital Inclusion conference in London.

Read full story

24 April 2008

Germany wants to become world leader in design for the elderly

Stanford iTunes U
The German government just announced a high level initiative for universal and transgenerational design to archive world leadership in the production of innovative products for the elderly including innovation strategies, product and service development, design school projects, and a universal design network.

As stated on the website of the German Ministry of Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the aim is to enlarge the potential that senior citizens can provide to the economy, by developing new products and services for the elderly, which in turn can secure existing jobs and create new ones, and by making companies (in construction, interior design, technology, information design, tourism, etc.) aware of the enormous opportunities by this future trend and supporting them with new ideas.

A press release dated 23 April 2008, gives more detail about the initiatives planned:

Companies, experts and organisations for senior citizens and consumers will be able to constantly exchange experiences and ideas on a new national platform, with the aim of creating a stronger integration of the expertise of the elderly, and therefore better products, that will be useful and pleasant for all generations.

  • Small and medium size companies will be made aware of the opportunities of the senior citizen market through regional cross-sector workshops and forums;
     
  • To increase the number of new companies founded by senior citizens, they will offered customised information and training opportunities in collaboration with the Chambers of Commerce and the public institutions;
     
  • A collection of “best practice” examples of promising business ideas will provide senior citizens with good ideas and encourage to make the jump towards independence.

Germany will become the leader in “trans-generational” design.

  • A competence network on “universal design” gathers information and knowledge with regards to product development;
     
  • Design competitions in educational institutions will provide inspiration for the type of products and packaging that are attractive and usable by people of any age group;
     
  • A travelling exhibition aimed at the public at large will show particularly successful examples of products and ideas that transcend the generations.

Older consumers will more easily find products and services that are based on their needs and requirements.

  • The German Government is investigating whether a quality label for age inclusive products can provide support to the elderly during shopping, and can stimulate the development of theses types of products;
     
  • Information materials, such as checklists, will make it easier for senior consumers to find the useful products and services within the market offering.

The initiative will initially run until 2010.

Here are some other German language links:
- Wirtschaftskraft Alter (project site)
- Project backgrounder (pdf, 12 pages)
- Design competition “Von Kopf bis Fuß” [From head to toe]

11 December 2007

Interview with Hilary Cottam

Hilary Cottam
It took Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken quite some effort to schedule an interview with Hilary Cottam, UK Designer of the Year 2005 and former director of RED [archive site], the meanwhile closed innovation unit of the UK Design Council, and now one of the founding partners of Participle. But it was worth it.

Participle (which now finally has a webpage) is a new social enterprise designing the next generation of public services, with a focus on the big and seemingly intractable social issues of the 21st century. The two other Participle co-founders are Charles Leadbeater, the internationally renowned thinker and innovator, and author of the book We-Think, and Colin Burns, designer and formerly the CEO of IDEO London. The initiative is supported by NESTA, where Participle has its offices.

In the 30 minute interview which covered as much ground as a normal person can do in 60 minutes – Hilary is a fast talker – we discussed many of the areas that are dear to this blog, including co-creation with end-users, the power of design to transform public services and provide new approach to address seemingly difficult problems such as diabetes, and how to constructively deal with an ageing population. She also talks about her new Participle venture of course.

The interview was published on the website of Torino World Design Capital, where the author of this blog provides monthly contributions.

Read full story

21 September 2007

Robots turn off senior citizens in ageing Japan

ifbot
Applying some user-centred design principles could have prevented this debacle:

High-tech gadgets and futuristic robots which Japan had hoped might lend a hand when the population turns gray haven’t caught on with the elderly, who according to forecasts will make up around 40 percent of the population by the middle of the century.

“Most (elderly) people are not interested in robots. They see robots as overly-complicated and unpractical. They want to be able to get around their house, take a bath, get to the toilet and that’s about it,” said Ruth Campbell, a geriatric social worker at the University of Tokyo.

Japanese manufacturers have learned the hard way that the elderly want everyday products adapted to their needs — easy to read for those with poor eyesight, big buttons for people with trembling hands and clear audio for the hard of hearing.

Read full story [Reuters]

13 September 2007

Designing for the elderly: targeting the voice of experience

Designing for the elderly
Via Core77, I came to the Modern Plastics Worldwide website, which has a good article up on Universal Design, or “Inclusive Design,” as they’re now calling it.

As the populations of America, Asia and Europe continue to grey at an unprecedented rate, more and more objects will need to be designed to be elderly-friendly.

“How to design for this burgeoning group of consumers? Well, don’t, at least not specifically, recommends Davin Stowell, CEO of product design firm Smart Design (New York). He says designers should not limit themselves to products specifically marketed to the aged or elderly, except for extreme products. “We’re becoming a more youthful society,” he notes, not in terms of average age but with reference to how people perceive themselves.

His recommendation: think in terms of ‘universal,’ or better yet, ‘inclusive’ design. Using lighter materials, combining materials with greater contrasts to make products easier to see or for backlighting, and using of soft-touch or other easily handled grips: all are examples of design aspects that appeal to seniors but also offer benefits to most other users, too.”

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30 August 2007

Insights into an ageing society

Ageing society
Acknowledging the significance of aging society and the related challenges to world wide welfare, Denmark’s TrygFonden, INDEX: and CIID set out to investigate the lives of elderly people to provide a new understanding of old age as inspiration for new designs solutions.

They research broke some notions held about old people and shifted the focus of design thinking from being a facilitator of special aids and appliances to seeking opportunities in the socio-economic and macro perspective. Their findings reveal distinct trends in the area of secondary occupations, connectivity, dignity and the way time and space is perceived amongst the elderly.

Drawing from user observation methodologies, design thinking and synthesis we observed and filmed old people in their homes in UK, US, Denmark, India, Taiwan, Italy, Israel, South Africa and Columbia.

Informed Anecdotes I: Insight into an ageing society (pdf, 11.9 mb, 19 pages)
This article puts the findings in context with the person and the possible solutions that apply to individuals.

Four main drivers were found to be the putty that holds the lives of the old people we observed together:

  1. Secondary occupations: Old people find a secondary occupation to have a purpose in life, create rhyme and maintain self-esteem.
  2. Connectivity: Communication, feeling of inclusiveness and information management is equally important to old people.
  3. Dignity: Independence and self esteem change the perception of the self in old age.
  4. Perception of time & space: How the use of time and space changes in various stages of old age.

The four main drivers were surprisingly found to be independent of culture, context, ethics, income or nationality.

Five related concepts were also detected and substantiated these findings:
1. The importance of rituals
2. Denial of ageing
3. Need for sense of rhythm
4. Grocery shopping is significant
5. The paradox of wisdom

The article concludes with a few potential concept directions to illustrate the possibilities of how we can translate the insights of this research into objective design thinking.

Informed Anecdotes II: Design for an ageing society (pdf, 3.5 mb, 12 pages)
The second article deals with the macro issues of the ageing and describes how design thinking could contribute to a more age integrated society and transform a notional burden into an opportunity.

The article concludes with seven lines of thought:

  1. The granularity of old age: Most of the myths and notions about aging arise due to a lack of understanding of the variations amongst the elderly.
  2. The notion of retirement: The current structure of retirement is heavily drawn from the industrial era where workers were worn out from decades of hard labour and had a lower life expectancy.
  3. Cultural variations: Cultural and social variations in the aging process are detected in different countries.
  4. The design challenge: Design thinking when used at a strategic level could transform these key insights into affirmative action.
  5. Vision of age integration: A big aspect of caring for the elderly involves integration with the rest of society. Providing a network of care that transcends age is a powerful tool in this process.
  6. The universal approach: Adopting the principles of universal design is already a big step closer to creating a more elderly friendly design.
  7. Service opportunities: The aging society of fers new opportunities in the service economy. Many services have the unique quality of being able to plug the gaps in the social structure. Services can act as agents of support by introducing new patterns of behaviours, bridging accessibility gaps and inducing motivations.

In conclusion:
“Quality of life in old age moves beyond mere creature comforts to having a healthy, secure and meaningful life. Healthcare and housing is just one facet of their needs. Building a sense of inclusiveness and dignity should be a public initiative as much as a social responsibility.”

25 August 2007

UK research shows that older web users spend more time online than any other group

UK elderly
Older web users spend more time online than any group, according to the annual report of the UK Office of Communications.

The 330-page report takes a comprehensive look at the way Britons use new and old media and reveals a nation in love with its media, gadgets and hi-tech gear.

16% of Britons aged 65+ spend 42 hours per month online – more than any other age group.

Another striking result, especially for traditional-media executives looking for their future customers, is that “kids are abandoning old and not-so-old media for the new. Whereas two years ago 59% of those aged 8 to 15 regularly watched videos, only 38% do now. Two years ago 61% regularly played video games compared with 53% today. Most are abandoning stand-alone media, such as DVDs, and turning instead to media such as the internet and in particular social-networking websites. The trend seems to accelerate as children move into their teenage years. Nearly two-thirds of children between the ages of 12 and 15 use the internet, compared with 41% of those aged 8 to 11.”

- Read BBC article
- Read Economist article

7 August 2007

Fing: the next generation internet foundation from France

Fing
For some time now I have been following the French innovation blog Internet Actu, not realising that it was part of a bigger initiative called “Fing“. Fing stands for “Fondation Internet Nouvelle Génération”, or the the next generation internet foundation, aimed at stimulating and promoting R&D and innovation in ICT uses and services. Here is how they describe themselves in English:

Founded by 3 leading Internet associations, including the Internet Society, FING is a collective and open research and development project which focuses on tomorrow’s Internet’s uses, applications and services.

FING views the future Internet as not only more reliable, mobile, fast, user-friendly – but as a different Internet: the disappearing Internet, in which broadband, mobile, pervasive, intelligent technologies make it possible to focus on the user’s needs, lifestyles and desires. We believe this technological change will unleash a new innovation cycle in applications and services. We also believe that the Internet’s decentralised design should and can scale to the next generation and is innovation’s and competition’s best chance for the future.

FING intends to help corporations, public agencies, education and research organizations be at the forefront of this new cycle. Through collective and networked intelligence, creativity and experimentation, Fing seeks to improve the efficiency of the innovation process, as well as reduce risks for all involved parties.

FING:

  • publishes Internet Actu, a weblog and media which is read by 70,000 professionals;
  • supports several workgroups and communities;
  • organises visits to research labs and innovative companies throughout the world;
  • publishes papers, books and reports;
  • moderates or takes part in foresight exercises such as Ci’Num, the Digital Civilizations Forum;
  • organises international conferences and industry events such as Mobile Monday France, or the “Crossroads of Possibilities” which showcases very early-stage innovative projects.

FING is networked with other, similar initiatives throughout Europe and the world. FING’s CEO, Daniel Kaplan, is a member of the European Commission’s eEurope Advisory Group.

FING currently has more than 165 members, including: BNP Paribas, EDF, Ericsson, Eutelsat, France Telecom/Orange, Galeries Lafayette, HP, INRIA, Microsoft, the Ministries of Education and Research, Toshiba, etc.

Some browsing around led me to interesting initiatives such as:

  • Villes 2.0 (Cities 2.0), which is aimed at helping traditional urban stakeholders (companies, institutions, social entities) and “digital actors” foresee urban and mobile transformations and work together on them. There are four focus areas: the augmented city (related to ubiquitous computing); my own city (which is about personalisation and user-centredness); service innovation (and co-creation); and social sustainability.
     
  • Active Identities, which is focused on identifying and stimulating the necessary actions to make the active management of digital identities into a resource, a tool that allows users to control their lives and realise their projects, a factor of confidence, and a source of innovation and value creation.
     
  • Innovative Interfaces, a new project which ponders the question how the fact that our direct and indirect interactions with machines and digital services, which keeps on getting better, simpler and easier, can help remove certain barriers for people with “difficulties” (e.g. non-users).
     
  • Active and autonomous living until 90

Also of interest are a series of videos including this presentation by Fing CEO Daniel Kaplan at LIFT07, as well as a huge amount of rather unorganised project videos from the Crossroads of Possibilities project.

18 July 2007

Firms snub ‘mobile for elderly’

Life Phone
The BBC reports that UK stores are refusing to stock a mobile handset aimed at the elderly because it “fails to fit their customer target”, says the phone’s distributor.

Stewart Smith, head of Communic8, also says that he had found no network operator prepared to partner with the makers of the Emporia Life handset.

The £170 ($320, €230) handset features easy-to-use buttons, a simple display and a large red panic switch on its back.

Charities for the elderly have accused the mobile industry of ageism.

Austrian-based manufacturer Emporia are aiming the phone at the over-50s but, despite a large potential market, has found it a hard sell in the UK.

“We are in discussion with a number of retailers, but particularly when it comes to the mobile networks, they find it hard to see where this kind of device fits within their brand,” said Mr Smith, managing director of the UK distributor Communic8.

- Read full story
- Watch video news report
- Watch video of pensioners testing the phone

15 June 2007

€1bn in digital technologies for Europeans to age well

Ageing
European Commission press release:

Responding to the needs of Europe’s growing ageing population, the Commission has today adopted a European Action Plan for “Ageing Well in the Information Society”. This Action Plan is accompanied by a new joint European research programme raising to over €1bn the research investment on information and communications technologies (ICT) targeted at improving the life of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general.

These new EU initiatives will contribute to allowing older Europeans to stay active for longer and live independently. Together they promise a triple win for Europe: improved quality of life and social participation for older people in Europe, new business opportunities for Europe’s industries, and more efficient and more personalised health and social services.

“Europe’s ageing population is a challenge for our job market, and its social and health systems. But it is also an economic and social opportunity. ICT will provide new and more accessible products and services that meet the needs of older people,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. “These two initiatives will mobilise digital technologies that will improve the daily lives and social participation of older people, and create new opportunities for Europe’s industry.”

By 2020 25% of the EU’s population will be over 65. Spending on pensions, health and long-term care is expected to increase by 4-8% of GDP in coming decades, with total expenditures tripling by 2050. However, older Europeans are also important consumers with a combined wealth of over €3000 billion.

ICT will increasingly allow older people to stay active and productive for longer; to continue to engage in society with more accessible online services; and to enjoy a healthier and higher quality of life for longer.

The majority of older people do not yet enjoy the benefits of the digital age – low cost communications and online services that could support some of their real needs – since only 10% use the internet. Severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems, frustrate many older peoples’ efforts (21% of the over 50s) to engage in the information society.

In response, today’s Action Plan aims at:

  • overcoming technical and regulatory barriers to market development, through market assessments and by facilitating the exchange of best practice between Member States;
  • raising awareness, and building consensus via stakeholder cooperation in 2007 and the establishment of a best practice internet portal,
  • accelerating take-up through, for example, a set of pilot projects and a European award scheme for smart homes and independent living applications;
  • boosting research and innovation by immediately supporting a joint public-private research programme dedicated to “ambient assisted living”. It aims to foster the emergence of innovative, ICT-based products, services and systems for Europe’s ageing population.

Read more

(via eGov monitor)

25 May 2007

Designing the user experience of a phone for the elderly

Jitterbug
“Jitterbug’s well-designed mobile—and the smart service behind it—was created to appeal to even the most technophobic seniors,” writes Jesse James Garrett, Adaptive Path president, in a Business Week article.

Selling technology to technophobes may not seem like smartest business strategy, but when the technophobes in question are the 100 million baby boomers and seniors in the U.S., bridging the technology gap starts to look like a real market opportunity.

For mobile-industry veteran Arlene Harris, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Harris is the mastermind behind Jitterbug, a company launched last October that combines a unique mobile phone (designed by Jitterbug and manufactured by Samsung) with a suite of services designed to meet the needs of older users. Because Jitterbug controlled both the product and service design, it’s able to deliver a seamless, innovative cross-channel experience, a rarity in the mobile-phone industry.

Providing familiar touchstones to ease the mobile-phone experience became a major part of Jitterbug’s design after early research showed that older users found conventions like signal strength meters unfamiliar and confusing. Instead, when you open a Jitterbug phone it emits—get this—a dial tone.

Read full story