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Cane Day [UPDATED]

Community-based advocacy day to build awareness and make reimagine the typical cane in order to soften the stigma associated with old age.

Photo of Jack DeFuria

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

Our idea is designed for people of all ages to rethink how they understand old age. We want to change the stereotype associated with using a cane – making it not negatively associated with old age. In doing so, we will help older adults live their best possible life by encouraging them to feel more comfortable using a cane, and thereby preventing the risk of falling in the future.

Many older adults have trouble coming to terms with the aging process. The cane acts as an indicator of old age and takes away the freedom of older adults and makes them feel dependent on other people to complete daily tasks. This social pressure, felt by many older adults, causes a reluctance to use fall prevention devices, such as the cane.

In order to fight this stigma, we will create a campaign to change the attitude that people have toward canes. We will design a broad community-based advocacy day to build awareness and help make canes "cool," thereby rethinking the way canes are used in every day life and changing the stigma around getting old.

We will partner with designers and top brands to craft better canes that are more stylish. Additionally, we will partner with news organizations and online influencers to help promote these new canes. "Cane Day" will act as the central component of the campaign, allowing designers to showcase their canes and offer older adults a comfortable and welcoming environment to learn more and engage with fall prevention. "Cane Day" will also help educate younger people to help remove the stigma and change the attitude toward getting old for future generations.

UPDATE 1: Take a look at our event page for Cane Day on Facebook!

UPDATE 2: After working on our first iteration of the prototype, we have a few learnings about the process:

  1. It's difficult to garner support for a project without sharing a compelling value proposition that your end users can get behind.
  2. If you do take the time to explain your work, people are generally receptive and willing to discuss the idea openly with you.
  3. Many people don't own or have access to canes. This presents a major barrier to having people participate, so Cane Day would require places for people to borrow a cane.
  4. People are able to empathize with realistic narratives. Similar to groups like the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which organizes head shaving events for people to act in solidarity with cancer patients, people were interested in standing in solidarity with older adults who have fallen or who must rely on canes. This allows you to gain support by leveraging your personal network to rally behind the cause, even if they don't have a direct connection to the cause.

Some other ideas we have worked on as an extension to the original Cane Day concept include:

  1. We can organize a series of walks in major cities where people can walk with canes to advocate and fundraise around the issue of fall prevention. Additionally, this would help reduce the stigma associated with canes.
  2. To remove the friction of using a cane, we can design a sticker that individuals can wear on their clothing or bag to show support of the cause and also help reduce the stigma associated with canes.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will launch a pilot campaign in our local community, engaging with senior citizen centers and universities, to test our idea and see whether the "Cane Day" campaign is a viable solution to fight this stigma. We will be able to conduct interviews with older adults, caregivers, medical professionals, designers, and younger people to identify which areas of the campaign are successful and which are lacking in viability.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would draw on the OpenIDEO community's guidance in learning whether the campaign would be practical in their community. This will allow us to quickly test whether the campaign would work in different geographies and generations.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience:

Group of students at NYU, studying design thinking.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Jack!

Really interesting idea!

Are there any awareness days in New York with events that are focused on older adults? What sort of events do they have? How do they target older adults? - might give you a few ideas

You might want to check out Zandri Kuun posts on Mobility Aid Hacking Workshops and Canes against stigma 
Also, you might be interested in checking out the new OpenIDEO Achievements Program, where we’ll be awarding shareable LinkedIn credentials for different levels of accomplishments in this Challenge!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Hi Jack and team. Interesting idea. I was going to connect with Zandri's idea for Hacking Workshops. You might want to connect with Rodney Lobo and Tuba Naziruddin to see if you could prototype an event at the MakerSpace. It could be part of cane day and you could invite both students and older adults. This could be part of a bigger event where you could distribute very simple bamboo sticks for canes or people could bring a cane if they had one. You just need to pick a date before the end of the semester.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Jack and team.
I like your idea for an advocacy campaign and day!

May is Older Americans Month, as I just discovered!
I was curious about Kate's question about whether we had an awareness day for older adults. Seems we have a Senior Citizen's Day in NYC, in May. There are some local events. I wonder if Cane Day might ultimately be in May too?

Senior Citizens Day 2016 - local NYC events:
Both of the links below mention a Senior Expo. I wonder if there might be an opportunity to display the variety of canes that you plan to collaborate on with designers, and also maybe custom canes made at a cane making hack? (I love that this is from the NY Roadrunners Club. Inspiring seniors.)

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

The Older Americans Month website has a Creative Aging Programs list and Creativity Matters: The Arts and Aging Toolkit. I wonder if hacking canes workshops might fit into a creative aging approach?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks Bettina Fliegel these are great resources... May might be too late for testing the idea as ideation ends end of April and the class too. I think the team could do a first test in April and if it was too work they could maybe inspire people to do it in May. It might be worth contacting the people who run these programs and events.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

I think it could definitely fit... well worth asking them. :-)

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

I agree that May does not fit into the Challenge timeline for prototyping….. but as an idea for when Cane Day might fit into a calendar, a time of year focused on senior events, it might align well in the long run?
Great idea to inspire another event in May, if the first goes well!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Completely agreed Bettina Fliegel ! Prototyping an event within the NYU community - Cane Day with maybe a workshop mixing students and seniors... and contacting the organizers of the events in NYC to see if they would be interested to include something in their planning for next year.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Jack DeFuria Runyu Yan @Shivani Daniel, Lara and Sheba I really like the way you started thinking of a light prototype. I recommend you update your idea with the light prototype and contact the people organizing Senior Month per @bettina fliegel suggestion and see if they would be interested in including Cane day or Hack a cane workshop during their programming. You might also want to share with this community That Bettina made me discover...

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Jack and team!
Yesterday I linked Cane Day to an idea I posted that is for an awareness campaign, thinking that one aspect of the campaign would be to share advocacy opportunities within communities.

Were you able to contact any of the campaigns linked above?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Bettina, last time I talked with Lara she had contacted several of the organizations you and I suggested but without any luck. :-(

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Maybe they still will?
NY For Seniors has some really interesting posts. Tomorrow there is an "Ask The Pharmacist" event at a public library in Rego Park, Queens. Here is a Fall Prevention Tips post -
I wonder who she reached out to. I cannot figure out who runs the website.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Jack and team,
Another idea might be to connect the idea I posted, linked in the comment above, to Cane Day by distributing postcards at the Cane Day event. These cards can function as conversation starters between participants at the event and also as a source for information and resources to take home. Thoughts?

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