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Six Interviews with Nine People from 50 to 84

41 insights from Chinese 50+.

Photo of Marco Yin
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Table of Content



Time Spent: 4 hours
Participants: Design team

Before the discussion, team members were asked to conduct secondary research on the topic of retirement, and explore their memories to find stories or pictures that impressed them.

When the preparation was done, the design team gathered to have a “Share Inspiring Stories” session. The team shared one by one, while sharing, other members transferred their observations and understandings to post-it notes and put them on the wall. In order to find themes, a lot of small discussions were taken in between stories. By moving and grouping notes, the discussion went further and deeper. The team labeled the groups, and then regrouped the notes from different perspectives, labeled again. This kind of group-and-label process repeated several rounds.


Time Spent: 3 hours
Participants: Design team

There are several things have to be ready before getting into the field.

  • Topics (we’d like to learn)
  • Recruiting
  • Question Guide
  • Exercises (to do in the field)
  • Logistics


How: Themes (labels of note groups from STEP 1) => Topics

  • Identifying details
    • Name
    • Age, gender, city, education
    • Bio
    • Retirement status
    • Personality
  • Dreams and gripes
    • Short-term wishes (considered realistic)
    • Hopes
    • Fears
  • Relationships
    • Relationships with children
    • Relationships with grandchildren
    • Relationships with spouse/partner
    • Relationships with parents
    • Relationships with friends
  • Wealth
    • Earning
    • Spending
    • Retirement savings
    • Financial services
    • Real estate
    • Inflation
    • Jobs after retirement
  • Wellness
    • Diseases
    • Physical health
    • Mental health
    • Healthcare
  • Lifestyle
    • Householding
    • Leisure
    • Nursing home
    • Tourism
  • Technology


  • By retirement status
    • Not yet retired
    • Just retired
    • Retired for a long time
  • By distance between elders and their adult children (check “PART II > #2” to learn why it matters)
    • Live in the same city
    • Live far away from their adult children
  • By gender
    • Male
    • Female
  • By city
    • Big city (Beijing)
    • Small city

Respondents are detailed in PART III.


HOW: Topics => Questions (in a way of encouraging respondents to tell stories)

  • When is your last family gathering? Who attended? What did you you? How’s it going?
  • What scenarios are you most worried about in your retirement life? Why? Anything else?
  • What is your short-term wishes? Why do you want it?
  • Any long-term hopes? Are you going to pursuit? Why? Why not?
  • Could you please try to remember the most recent happiest day? What happened? How you feel? Why you feel this way?
  • What did you do yesterday? Could you please tell us from the moment you woke up until end of the day? How you feel? Why you feel/think this way?
  • Can you please try to image a wonderful day after retirement. What did you do in your imagination? Why?
  • Have you ever thought about living in a nursing home? How you feel? What do you think? Why?
  • What kind of role are your phone/computer/tablet playing in your life? How you feel? What have you done with them? Why did you do this way? What kind of problems have you encountered? How did you solve them?


  • Resource flow
  • Card sort (to learn their attitudes towards 15 financial services well known in China)
  • Photojournal (this method was considered, but not actually performed as it requires too much efforts)

Image title


  • Make appointments
  • Assemble pairs for different interview sessions (one for conversation , one for note-taking)
  • Thank you gifts
  • Checklist


Time Spent: 2 hours * 6 sessions
Participants: Respondents & Design team


Time Spent: 8 hours
Participants: Design team

Interview pairs were sent out, and it’s time to call them back. Once again, the team followed a “Share Inspiring Stories” method. Meanwhile, we created insight statements (check PART IV for details).

A spreadsheet was created to demonstrate the original observations and interpretations. We’ve tried to put more details on it, but it’s not done yet and for sure there is information loss (that’s why in person communication is quite important, right?). Hope it helps!



China, whose state pension fund is under pressure to break even in coming years, will formalize a plan in 2017 to raise the official retirement age.
At present, China's official retirement age for most men is 60. For women, it is 55 for civil servants and employees for state enterprises, and 50 for others.

Reference: China will set plan for raising retirement age next year


Chinese parent-child relationships have become a bit complicated lately. Eastern cultures like China's adhere to the Confucian tradition of "filial piety," which prioritizes the family unit and values elders with the utmost respect. But China's rapid industrialization has forced people to flock to urban areas for work, causing many adult children to move farther away from their parents, who often remain in rural areas and are unfit to pick up and move.

Reference: How the elderly are treated around the world


In urban China, the average price per square foot of a home has risen to $171, compared to $132 in the U.S. In first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen, prices have increased by about 25 percent in the past year.

Reference: China's Housing Gets Scarily Expensive

China's housing frenzy is still very much alive.
Credit growth roared back, with medium and long-term new loans to households in August, which are comprised of mostly mortgages, jumping 32.2% year-over-year.

Reference: China's housing market is going nuts again


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* Sessions 1/2/4 are group interviews.
** May from the Session 3 is considered an extreme user.



  1. People usually check whether their saving is enough until they are actually getting retired, and are often shocked that retirement requires so much money that they don't actually have.
  2. People around 50 have to take care their spouse/partner, children, elderly parents. This situation makes saving for retirement even more difficult.


  1. Pre-retirees aged 50+ are not satisfied with the performance of investment products offered by banks, but they are still buying them as they trust banks.
  2. People who are not capable to independently assess the risk of an investment activity, primarily above 70, often depend on the recommendations from people they trust. Surprisingly, salesperson in a suit from a bank branch is often considered trustworthy. More surprisingly, they may not trust their son who has extensive investment experience, because the richness of their son's portfolio makes them confused and overwhelmed, then leads to insecure feelings.
  3. Retirees have stronger willingness to investment than working age people.
  4. People above 50 put safety first, profitability second. Liquidity is often ignored.


  1. Most people perceive inflation by the raise of food price, such as pork, egg, rice, milk.
  2. The CPI data published by government agency is often considered being manipulated.
  3. Family member who do grocery shopping have stronger feeling about inflation.
  4. Most people have no ideas how to deal with inflation.


  1. Almost everybody showed their interest of investing in real estate, because i) the price raises radically; ii) by leasing extra homes, the rent is conventionally paid quarterly, which is considered a sustained flow of income; iii) in case of emergency, they can sell the house
  2. Parents of unmarried children have to help their young pay the down payment of a home. In many cases, it costs nearly the whole life saving of parents including their retirement saving.
  3. Matthew effect


  1. Most people above 50 are strongly willing to work (full-/part-time) in retirement if they are in good physical condition. And the workload has to be light or moderate.
  2. Priority: Babysitting grandchildren > Jobs after retirement > Leisure Activities


  1. Most people over 50 have health problems, especially chronic diseases.
  2. Most of pre-retirees can't predict their healthcare cost in retirement.
  3. Most people state that when fatal/major disease happens to them, if the treatment cost significantly exceeds the coverage of medical insurance, they would quit treatment.
  4. People concerns genetic diseases, especially whose parents died from cancer, Alzheimer's.
  5. People over 50 exercise.


  1. Parents always put their children before themselves, even they are adults. They never ask anything from children, don't want to let them worry or overspend energy.
  2. On one hand, retired parents want to see their adult children regularly, but on the other hand, they are afraid of taking too much time away from their children because most young people are tense. This contradictory makes olders even call less. Every time they ask children to back home, they have to find a strong justification in their mind.
  3. While everyone has their own hope list, there are several items are in common for most retired parents. These items are not actually their own goals but goals (literally, "lifetime big things") for their children. When their children achieved these goals, they think "mission complete" as parents: i) get a stable job; ii) get married; iii) have babies; iv) buy a property
  4. Babysitting grandchildren is phenomenal. Even sitting a baby is exhausting, most retired parents are doing this, because: i) they are trying to reduce the stress of their children; ii) they enjoy the intimacy with newborn; iii) they believe it can lower the risk of Alzheimer's


  1. The main reason, a sad one, people consider nursing home as their destination is that they don't want to be the "liability" of their children when they are semi-disabled or disabled.
  2. Pre-retirees aged 50+ think nursing home is an option for their later years. The judgement is based on intuition not thorough consideration. They realize that there must be many uncertainties, but the cognition about the obstacles in retirement are still ambiguous. The term "nursing home" seems an omni solution for most of these barriers.
  3. Women who just get retired or will retired soon have an interesting behavioral pattern: they discussed with their good female friends that one day when they are really old, they would move to the same nursing home.
  4. Retirees in good physical condition, especially men, mentally refuse to live in a nursing home because: i) they refuse to accept that they are getting weak and there is one day they will be disabled and ultimately die; ii) living at home makes them feel that they are still in their social eco-system, but living in a nursing home means isolation. But, meantime, they also worry if they can have a bed in a nursing home if one day they are disabled.
  5. Semi-disabled or disabled people are strong-willed to move into a nursing home, but it's extremely challenging to make it real. The dilemma is caused by many factors: cost, medical readiness/quality, availability, environment, distance, etc.
  6. Well educated people, if one day they are in a nursing home, they hope that their neighbors could be at the same level of education, values, interests, temperament as they are.


  1. Older people prefer activities with characteristic of social or competitive.
  2. Older people prefer activities combine socializing and exercising.
  3. Most older people show their enthusiasm to travel.
  4. Recalling old memories and telling stories brings pleasure to elderly. Specially, tell stories to someone important (like sons/daughters) while revisiting old places.


  1. Most group tours mix young people and older people together. The itinerary doesn't satisfy elderly's needs, such as urinary frequency and compromised mobility.
  2. People in the cold place prefers a migratory lifestyle.


  1. Pre-retirees are familiar with technology as their work often involves computers, smart phones, tablets. But troubleshooting is relative hard for most of them.
  2. People above 70 like simple product. But they are highly influenced by people around them. If everybody around them is adopting new technology, and its value can not be replaced by any simple product they already known, they will start learning, even is hard.
  3. Elderly use a physical notebook to record their passwords and step-by-step guides.
  4. Elderly like showing young people they are learning some new tech toys, because they want to be praised and encouraged, and people won't skimp on praise.


  1. It's hard for women to accept aging looks. The investment on beauty rises notably about ten years before retirement.


This research is conducted regionally in China under the guidance of design thinking methodology. It’s not designed to aim 100% reliability or 100% validity.

Some topics were ignored in some interviews as they are considered sensitive.


  • YIN Yue (Co-founder @ GuruJam)
  • LI Wenhu (Co-founder @ GuruJam)
  • WAN Weibo (Product Manager @
  • WANG Lisha (Service Design & Delivery Manager @ NationSky)
  • WANG Lei (Product Manager @ NationSky)
  • CHEN Weihu (Product Manager @


What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Check PART IV above.

Tell us about your work experience:

An NN/g certified UX specialist

Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • I'm not currently involved in a credit union, but am curious to learn more!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Marco! The ideas phase of this challenge is still open for two more weeks. I hope to see your ideas there. 

Photo of Marco Yin

Hi Kate,

Thanks for your comments.

We've been working on ideation for a while, and I just published our contribution. You can check it here:

Sorry for the late reply. Frankly, the design thinking process is not easy for us. While applying the method, dizzy feeling comes out regularly as things change dynamically all the time. Fortunately, we learned to embrace the ambiguity and it's much better now. I'm kind of a procrastinator because I believe finalizing/stabilizing a point of view needs deep arguing firstly with myself which is time consuming. Now I got some time to have a further discussion you suggested.

> What do you think could be done to make people think about retirement earlier?
It is the most critical issue we are trying to solve in our proposed solution.

> Do you think the lack of understanding might be linked to the reasons mentioned in these posts?

Yes, of course. By referring these insights, we made a framework in our proposal, you can check it for more details.

> Are there any other sources of information on inflation available that is crowdsourced or from another source?
Actually, the government data is the only source. The main reason it can't reflect the reality is the "housing" part doesn't include the cost of buying a house.

> Would Additional Dwelling Units be an option for them or something like ‘Property Partner’?
Yes! Very good inspiration. But we narrowed down the problems we are trying to solve, so this idea is not included in the main body of our solution. But for sure, it can be hooked up with our solution at some point.

> This seems to be a recurring theme in several posts. How would they adapt to things like voice recognition technology?
Sounds great, but I'm not quite sure about it. I think we could run some tests to get the answer.

> Would the people in your study be interested in something like StoryWorth mentioned by Ariana Bautista?
Absolutely. After reading that, we kept "simplicity, pace, privacy and connection" in mind when we working on the ideation.

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