When adults grow older, their body naturally becomes weaker. Although many seniors have weaker muscles and decrease in balance, they want to think they are in control. Yet, when faced in a situation where they are prone to falling, they don't have the energy to stay up. How can we ensure independence as well as the accessibility that encourages them to participate in programs proven to prevent falls?
Roam is a portal that brings knowledge to seniors about available fall prevention programs and transportation services. It promotes independence by allowing seniors to browse and request rides for him/herself to attend to programs and public events. It also follows up with seniors to receive feedback on their experiences and connects with them to answer any questions about fall prevention in general.
**Roam will aggregate events and programs from senior community centers, organizations, and facilities that often provide activities for seniors and/or host programs and lectures.**
My target users are older adults ages 50 and above who live in their own homes. Users include older adults who are visually and hearing impaired. Roam provides online service as well as phone service for those who have a hard time looking at the screen and want to learn about nearby programs and services.
I interviewed 7 people (between ages 59 to 72) at Sunnyvale Senior Community Center making efforts to prevent falls and are looking to improve their physical well being dramatically. To wrap up other miscellaneous questions about fall prevention, I also conducted a survey with 7 seniors who currently live at home regarding other miscellaneous fall prevention questions.
There are simple ways of preventing falls such as making sure vision is clear, removing clutter from home, and taking medication that don't cause dizziness. Others include using guardrails and walking canes but at some point, these start becoming aids rather than prevention tools. Although these can prevent seniors from avoiding serious falls, these short term solutions remind them of what they're not good at or what they can't change.
By providing the right service and opportunity for seniors to participate in programs that help strengthen the movement and balance of their body - something they still have the power to do - we can significantly reduce their fear, anxiety, and unwillingness to receive help in the long run.
Many seniors know of community fitness programs but they don't have the appropriate transportation service to get themselves comfortably to those programs.
The need to feel independent: Growing older is already stressful so many older adults like to think they are capable of doing things with the same agility they had before to build self-confidence. Their denial and negative mindset immediately pushes away those who want to help. In addition, I noticed that many spoke candidly about this through my online survey rather than in person.
"As you age, at least for me, I don’t feel like I’m seventy-something. I have a birthday in a few days, I look at the number, and I don’t believe it. I don’t feel that old. I tend to do things that I shouldn’t be doing because I still think I’m young.
You do lose your sense of balance, and you become more likely to fall. Your frailty, loss of muscle tone, general stubbornness, and denial to accept that you’re not as young as you feel contribute to the statistical probability that you will fall. I know too many of my friend's parents who broke their hips and died in the hospital." – Cyndi
"My uncle will be 100-years old this September. He’s very stubborn. My aunt begs him to use a three-footed cane, and until now he has refused.
They live outside of Boston and, as you may know, the east coast got battered with snowstorms this winter. They live in a house with steep concrete stairs. The fellow who delivers their newspaper puts it on the top stair. My uncle insists on going out every morning to get it. The stairs were icy; he reached down to pick it up, slipped and fell down the stairs. He didn’t break his hip, but he did break several bones in his leg." – Cyndi
The lack of curated informational sources about fall prevention gathered in one place: For seniors, who wanted to learn more about body exercises and gain personal insight from the fall prevention community, they had to go through many sources to get information. Each program and transportation service has their own website and system. There are just too much information to keep track on the web.
“ I didn’t know that Stanford hosted fall prevention lectures, he didn’t know about the Roadrunners, and you didn’t know about Silversneakers” - Ron
“ Today I signed up for a fitness program that I learned about through email. It was so convenient - I didn’t need to look for it” - Elaine
How My Solution Helps:
The need to feel independent: Whether visually impaired, hearing impaired, or none, the senior is able to use the service to his/her own comfort. Roam provides phone service as well as online service.
The lack of curated informational sources about fall prevention gathered in one place: Roam doesn’t offer a specific product or service for the senior to use - the senior has the say in choosing what programs he/she wants to join, which forum he/she wants to contribute to, and what transportation services to use.
All-in-one: Seniors who can still drive or who currently already uses a ridesharing service can still browse on Roam, discover new events and connect with the community.
Testing my variations:
Throughout my iterations, I designed prototypes and tested with seniors to observe how they responded.
Version 1: R-cubed, a Smart Resistant Band
*This was not done for openIDEO, but I built my later iterations from the information I gathered from this project.
Age-related loss of muscle and strength prevents seniors from performing the most basic tasks of daily living, and greatly increases their risk of accidents. This syndrome can reduce a senior's physical stamina, thus motivation to maintain balance and muscle strength. Current health services that help build better habits tend to be pricey and not focused on the aging population.
Frederick, a 76 year old pet lover, uses a wheelchair to get around. Before his foot numbness disrupted his mobility, he enjoyed going to the gym to exercise and participating in fitness programs. His illness has restricted him in some ways but he’s always looking for ways to improve his physical strength. It doesn’t take a lot for Frederick to try new things because he loves comparing new exercises to the exercises he does currently.
–> R-cubed can be a starting point for Frederick - he is just exploring his options but he’s not serious about resistance training. He wants to see if he enjoys it and if he sees better results in his muscle strength. He might also suggest his family and friends to use R-cubed so they can exercise and spend time together. Frederick may have other exercises he does routinely, but he may discover that R-cubed fits his needs more effectively.
Vania, a 54 year old mom, is a caretaker for her grandparents. She has witnessed many falls at home and has taken precautions on falling herself. She knows growing older can be stressful and frustrating so she has been reading a lot of articles about fall prevention, reaching out to professional healthcare providers, and fitness trainers. She doesn’t exercise often so she has decided to focus on her physical health.
–> R-cubed may be one of the exercising tools Viana uses out of many other ones that are proven to improve and maintain physical strength. She might use R-cubed daily and look up videos and join resistant training programs to learn how to use the band properly. She may also to see reviews of R-cubed to proof the product’s effectiveness and validation.
R-cubed, A Solution Guided by Research:
I learned about sarcopenia and I started my project focusing on the frustrations that come with muscle weakness. Through research, I came across the benefits of resistant training in muscle health, and good mental health. R-cubed, my initial solution, is a smart resistant band that trains the senior to stay active by:
Reminding: Sends reminders to the phone for the senior to train
Encouraging Routine: Offers convenience as a stay-at-home exercising tool
Rewarding: Records on-the-spot progress on the band itself
Watch the informational video here.
Aging in Place Stimulation:
Before digging into my project, a group of four designers including me, started off by gathered everyday things to transform our into an older adult. Our friend performed some daily tasks such as walking down the stairs, cooking, and more while I mapped out his journey. While he performed these tasks, I noticed he got tired and grumpy often. This pushed me to look into the effects of natural muscle atrophy on emotional health.
Just Research Doesn't Win:
During this journey, I visited several independent and assisted living homes in Rhode Island such as Tockwotton On The Waterfront and St. Elizabeth senior community. I tested my R-cubed prototype with eight seniors and learned that simply recording progress isn't a strong enough incentive for the older generation, and even mild resistant training could exacerbate joint pain. I realized I needed to improve on the credibility of the product. The product didn't adapt well to many seniors' lifestyle and most of them associated it with tedious work.
How R-cubed influenced my next version:
• A lot of seniors have different exercising preferences so a handful of them weren't interested in the product. Inspired by the three aspects of habit formation - remind, routine and reward, my next iteration helps seniors pick up basic habits needed to prevent falls.
• Most seniors expressed their excitement when I described R-cubed as a companion - except that a resistant band wasn't an ideal companion they would want to come back to. Instead, I learned that many seniors who had pets, specifically dogs, looked forward to exercising/walk everyday.
• Exercising equipment can be intimidating to seniors and most who are unfamiliar with the resistance training may be uncertain to take on the challenge. Resistant bands may that are left on the floor may also cause falls and injuries due to the impact of spring backs.
Version 2: Raderie, a Motivational App for Seniors
* The app matches a senior with a pet of a similar lifestyle so the two can support each other through reminders and rewards.
Seniors are aware of exercises such as weight lifting, resistance training, and exercises for muscle building, but R-cubed doesn’t give the reward seniors needed to motivate themselves to come back to the product. R-cubed doesn’t give the senior a sense of value and need, which is important during this phase in life.
Frederick: After a bad fall one night last year getting to his wheelchair from his bed, he felt disheartened. Instead of thinking about all the things he could do to prevent himself from falling again, he took a step back and realized his fall was due to poor vision and the meds he took that made him dizzy.
–> Raderie may help him build his self-confidence again by keeping track of his basic health to prevent himself from falling. Like R-cubed, Raderie is also a companion, but a companion Frederick can put a face to. He may be willing to try Raderie because as much as he exercises, he knows he overestimates himself a lot. Raderie will send him reminders to be more careful - for example, taking a walk only after one full hour of consuming meds.
Viana: Viana has been resistance training for a few days now, and even though it is proven to help with muscle maintenance, the exercise isn’t really her thing. She’s willing to use R-cubed once in awhile when she feels like it but she has continue to look into precautions she can take in fall prevention.
–> Raderie may help keep track of her basic health so she can focus on lifestyle changes that can enhance her physique. Because Viana may take awhile to find the right fit for her needs, she can use Raderie as a guide for her to maintain good habits as she grows older. For example, Raderie will remind Viana to take her meds so she won’t forget on days she is busy with attending fitness classes that could help reduce the amount of meds she takes.
Raderie, A Solution Influenced by Empathy:
Raderie, a callback to Tamagotchi nostalgia, combines playful features with habit formation as an enjoyable and casual way of improving daily habits. Seniors can personalize and build good habits based on their basic health information while they care for their virtual dog that also has a similar health situation.
What I learned from this version:
Seniors found it frustrating that Raderie didn’t encourage them to create their own habits on the app. They found it restricting to only be able to manage their diet, medications, steps and vision.
“Taking my medications is already part of my daily morning routine. What I tend to lose track of is when I last talked on the phone with my children. They are the ones that get me motivated to stay active.” - Sheila
Seniors want to share their habits but they find it difficult to share their accomplishments in the app.
“Sharing all the efforts I’ve made to keep myself healthy and getting positive feedback is a big reward for me” - Michael
Language is very important - having the words diet, medications, steps and vision didn’t imply what the seniors would see when they clicked on those tabs. Thus, they were unsure about the practicality of the app.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked on the four tabs at the bottom” - Katherine
On the topic of habit forming, many seniors mentioned that they participate in community fitness programs or fall prevention related events on a regular basis. Some voiced frustrations about keeping up with the amount of events that are offered.
“It would have been nice to know that Stanford hosted a talk about fall prevention last week. There’s just too much information to keep track of” - Natalie
How Raderie influenced my next version:
• Created a section on an app where seniors can connect with their healthcare providers. Healthcare providers will be able to view the habits and attending programs of the seniors they care for to make on-site visits more personable.
• Created a section that has an updated list of senior community events and programs. This section allows seniors to discover programs that they had heard of before and attend.
• Modified the habit forming concept so that the senior can input their prefered habits they hope to build or improve on.
Version 3: Rebalance, a portal to improve the self, social, and spirit of every senior.
* An app for seniors that informs nearby wellness activities, encourages healthy habit formations, and alerts connected healthcare providers.
The problem I’m aiming to solve is to help the community understand that preventing age-related falls is not only an individual’s task, but also the entire community’s effort. Seniors need to be guided, not victimized and we can do so by encouraging them to build good, individual habits as well as attend wellness programs to create a safe space for other seniors.
Frederick: Being an extrovert, Frederick recently attended a senior fitness program at a nearby gym and had such a good experience connecting with the community! When he goes home, he promises himself to attend a fitness class at least once every two weeks.
–> Rebalance may not only help manage Frederick’s habits he wants to continue building, but also broaden his knowledge of programs and events to attend. Because of his wheelchair situation, he goes in for check up often. Keeping his healthcare provider up-to-date regularly, Rebalance may help Fredrick’s regular on-site checkups be more efficient.
Viana: Viana’s healthcare provider recently introduced her to a fitness class near the medical center she goes to. After learning more about the instructor and the program online, she decides to give the class a try. Since then, Viana has found fall prevention programs to be more suitable for her needs because she enjoys the guidance of the instructors that are present.
–> Rebalance will give Viana all the resources to fall prevention and wellness programs and may even make her a loyal customer to an ongoing class. In addition to helping her keep track of the programs she has attended, Rebalance will also help her manage simple habits that her healthcare provider has confirm will benefit her.
Rebalance, A Solution that Encourages Independence and Connectedness:
Rebalance helps seniors manage their personal goals, whether it is resistance training every day or taking yoga classes once every week. Fitness programs can be found on the Rebalance app, which reduces the amount of time a senior may take to learn about a class and the amount of classes a senior may miss because he/she was unaware. My app encourages the senior to build better habits, connect with the community through wellness programs, and allow providers to stay updated on the senior's activities so they can provide the best care.
What I learned from this version:
Although a handful of seniors use smartphones, huge number of seniors either don’t use a smartphone or have one, but barely use it.
“I don’t use a smartphone - I have a flip phone and it’s all I need.” - Ron
Healthcare providers don’t really benefit from Rebalance. Rebalance mostly benefits the senior and can take up lots of time for the healthcare provider. Because healthcare providers are so busy, they may not even stay up-to-date with their patients until their next visit.
“My schedule is packed everyday sometimes I don’t even have the time to eat lunch...Rebalance may be helpful for providers who want to check up their seniors who are diagnosed with a serious problem or disease; otherwise I don’t see the value of Rebalance for providers.” - Jane
Seniors have habits they want to build and improve on but they don’t feel the need to record them down.
“I’m currently looking into a nearby fitness program I can go to regularly. Keeping track of nearby fitness programs and events is actually more overwhelming because there are constantly updates - Fernando
“My husband has early stages of Alzheimer's - building habits is difficult for him. - Patricia
How Rebalance influenced my next version:
• Created a service that caters to seniors who use smartphones and who don’t use smartphones.
• Created a service that focuses on promoting available fitness programs/lectures and transportation services that may be difficult to find and save.
• Eliminated the app feature of managing habit formation because it isn’t as complicated as learning about/managing programs that are constantly updating. Forming individual habits is a personal need that can updated quickly, whereas attending events or requesting rides require knowledge from outside sources.
• Created a service where programs and transportation services would be able to actively request feedback from seniors so they can improve their business for them.
• Created a forum space for seniors to connect with the community and ask for advice and suggestions related to programs, services and exercises. The forum space will welcome healthcare providers to answer questions and in return they will get increased recognition.
Version 4: Roam, a Service that Provides Resources for Every Senior
* An online service for seniors who are looking to participate in wellness/fall prevention programs that suit their needs and and find transportation services that are available for them.
There are many programs and services that host and run fitness programs to help seniors maintain their balance and physical wellness. There are also many community and local transportation services that offer rides to seniors. With so much information out on the web, seniors have a hard time keeping up with the amount of resources they should have.
Frederick: Frederick has been participating in a lot of programs and he has seen such a huge improvement in his balance and reaction time. With so many programs to check out, he needs proper service to help him get from place to place because of his wheelchair situation.
–> Roam may reduce the amount of time it would take for Frederick to browse the web and learn about nearby programs and events. It will help him keep track of programs he has attended, or programs he wants to attend. Roam may also reduce anxiety he gets from commuting in a wheelchair because the service only promotes transportation services that cater to older adults.
Viana: Before Viana goes to any program, she tends to read everything about it from the program’s mission to the community’s feedback. Sometimes she doesn’t have the time to learn everything about a program or service but she always likes to come back and learn when she has time. Although she can still drive herself, she has looked into transportation services that could help her parents, as well as herself when she gets older.
–> Roam is an all-in-one platform Viana can use to broaden her knowledge about wellness/fitness programs, and services. She’s not only able to build her portfolio of saved events and programs, but also connect with the community of professional healthcare providers and more. Thus, by the time she is her parents’ age, she may feel less anxious with the help of Roam.
What I learned from this version:
When I spoke with Connie, the founder of www.dailycaring.com, I learned that there are many contributors to falling including unpredictable events such as sudden movements. Nevertheless, the body’s natural aging process will always be present, which makes every part of the body weaker and prone to falling. Getting to locations that offer fitness programs and events are limited, so many seniors find it difficult to learn new exercises and try out new programs.
–> After I spoke with Connie, I reached out to seniors at the Sunnyvale Community Senior Center as well as read forums online. I realized that many seniors knew about programs and transportation services that other seniors did not, and vice versa.
I spoke with Marta, a Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency advocate, who closely works with deaf people and learned that many deaf seniors who have iPhones don’t rely on services that have apps because it can be overwhelming. For example, modern transportation services such as Lyft and Uber don’t train their drivers to sign and that can make hard of hearing seniors anxious and unwilling to use those services.
–> This made me take a step back and think about my target audience. My audience is the senior community which includes those who may be visually and hearing impaired. The service that Roam provides should be able to give access to those who are disabled.
On Quora I learned that in developing countries, generally older members of a family live with their offspring who the care for them. Because they don’t have the luxury of professional elder care, they try to provide a safe environment for their seniors. Although there are exceptions to this rule, there are families out there that don’t have health care access because of their low income.
–> Not everyone can afford costly services including seniors who live in the Bay Area where costs are tremendously high. There are affordable resources out there such as El Camino Hospital’s Roadrunner transportation service but not enough people know about it for the service to grow.
As programs and services that cater to older adults continue to grow, staying up-to-date can be difficult. Roam service collects those information from centers and organizations, and promotes them to the seniors. Roam has features that offer customer service, build long term relationship, and bring the community together.