To help people everywhere realize that death doesn’t have to mean the end of meaningful connection with our deceased loved ones and that we can continue to honor them in meaningful ways. Leave-A-Wish wants to foster this process of enduring connection by facilitating the continued fulfillment of our loved one’s wishes.
WHAT IS A “WISH?”
We often talk about our loved ones’ “final wishes” as relating to memorial arrangements and plans. While those wishes are important, Leave-A-Wish is focused on other longer-lasting wishes that the family can physically do to honor the memory of the deceased. Such a “wish” can be any sort of request, a memory or tradition a loved one wants their family and friends to continue to or share after they are gone.
Seniors entering the latter years of their life often yearn that they might find a way to continue to be a presence for good for their family after they have died. Leave-A-Wish provides a ready vehicle for them to do this. Their wishes, as well as family memories and traditions, are stored in the Leave-A-Wish platform. After the registered user passes away, Leave-A-Wish would share his or her wishes with his surviving loved ones. The wishes will be calendared so when it’s time for a wish to be shared or fulfilled, an email or other notification could be sent to the surviving loved ones. As they fulfill the wishes, the surviving loved ones would maintain a connection with the deceased in meaningful way.
Leave-A-Wish hopes to enrich life through meaningful connection. The recipients of the wishes can honor their loved ones in significant ways by fulfilling their specific wishes. Leave-A-Wish also creates an opportunity for the seniors to enrich their life through meaningful connection with the years they have left. Filling out their wishes allows them to reflect on what matters most and reconnect with their family and friends, therefore creating more stirring memories.
The end-of-life experience is the last major milestone in the journey of life. During a brainstorming session, my colleagues and I started to ask ourselves how mainstream society celebrates a birth in comparison to celebrating the end-of-life? We found that there is a lack of tools in an end-of-life wishlist space. How can a person nearing death list non-monetary gifts he would like to leave behind for his loved ones?
Imagine sitting down with your parents or grandparents and helping them fill out their end-of-life wishlist. The types of wishes that could be included are limitless! Here are few examples:
- "I want you to stay educated about local and national politics. Voting is important to me. It would mean a lot to me if you continued to honor your civic duty throughout your life."
- "I want you to take your sons on a fishing trip to the same river we went to years ago. These are some of the fondest memories I hold.”
- “I want you always cut down a fresh Christmas tree during the holiday season. My favorite tradition was cutting down a tree, decorating it, and basking in the smell.”
We created two surveys: 1) For seniors 2) People under the age of 45.
We shared this survey with family and friends and had over 25 respondents from different backgrounds and age groups.
From our survey we learned that elders prefer communicating through voice and currently transfer memories through photographs. To ensure that Leave-A-Wish is easy to use we think that having an easy way to record your Leave-Behinds in video format will help elders successfully share Leave-Behinds.
Based on current behavior, we also learned that Leave-Behinds are often of different types and are not limited to just “wishes.” Elders try and transfer “traditions,” “Memories,” “Stories,” and “Values”. The survey helped us refine our concept.
Every respondent indicated that they would enjoy a product like Leave-A-Wish and it would enrich there life in one way or another.
We used the prototypes to answer our big question- “Will the recipients of the Leave-Behinds be inclined to engage and honor their loved ones?”
We shared the prototype with over 10 people and tested out the value of our concept. People responded positively to Leave-A-Wish and were very open to engaging with the platform.
- “It’s a way for me to stay connected with my loved ones with minimal effort.”
- “I would enjoy them. It would be a good reminder of the happy times that were shared with my loved ones. Also, it would help me know and remember what they cherished about me.”
"YOUR DEATH DOESN'T BELONG TO YOU. YOUR DEATH BELONGS TO THOSE WHO LOVE AND CARE FOR YOU."
Our wish is that society can began looking at death through a different perspective. Ultimately, we believe your death doesn't belong to you. Your death belongs to those who love and care for you - the ones you leave behind. The wishlist is a tool that will help foster deeper and more significant connection.
Why do we have to stop giving gifts to our loved ones just because they have passed on? Why does death have to be thought of as the end of connection between loved ones? Leave-A-Wish can be a portal of connection between the living and the dead and enrich the lives of all that use it.
NEXT STEPS / POTENTIAL PARTNERS:
What makes Leave-A-Wish unique and different from other ideas in this challenge is the scalability. Leave-A-Wish is a product that would cause many different organizations to jump at the opportunity to enhance their mission and programs. Some examples of potential partners are:
- Senior Centers
- Retirement Communities
- Hospice Care
- Nursing Homes
- Funeral Homes
- Insurance Companies
- Veteran Organizations
- Other Senior Organizations (AARP, Red Hat Society, Senior Corps)
For example, many senior centers are legally mandated to provide numerous daily activities for their residents. Activity directors are constantly searching for new activities that will engage their residents. Leave-A-Wish would provide an exciting new activity that enriches their resident's lives. Incorporating Leave-A-Wish would also be seamless; it does not require a large investment, new equipment, or specialized training. Leave-A-Wish can reimagine the end-of-life experience, and enrich life through meaningful connection, in a simple, scalable, and uncomplicated way.