Connected Aging

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.

Design Challenge

To develop insights and a set of forward-thinking concepts for social participation—models that could increase the independence, well-being, and health of a society living longer. Currently, aging is seen as a negative experience: a process of becoming more fragile, isolated, and sick. As a result, we design for decline and for the monitoring and care of older adults. We plan for the crisis that will come with the “silver tsunami.” At BIF we believe we need to design for the opportunity longevity presents. To do this, we need to understand how people are currently experiencing and maximizing their longer lives. We believe social connection and participation is an important part of this experience. With this lens, we can widen the pool of possibility for older adults, and influence everything from a sense of well being and meaningful contribution, to independence, and ultimately, health.

Approach

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. We developed initial insights and opportunity spaces, and hosted a participatory design studio that brought elders and community members together to design a better future for aging.

Impact Statement

As a result of our research, we, in conjunction with elders engaged in the study, developed four opportunity spaces grounded in experience insights and principles. These opportunity spaces led us to 6 solution concepts.