Bridging post-retirement seniors with the society, maximizing their values to alleviate senior depression.
Service design
Project Info
Group Project
Jiang China Design 2017, HangzhouBest Empathy Award of JCD 2017
Foundation -- Start from scratch
Deliverable -- Service Strategy
Aug 2017 | 2 week
Sketch, Photoshop
My Contribution
Lead Prototyper, User Researcher, Visual Designer
Teammates' contributions
Yiwei Xu -- Lead Visual Designer
Yiran Yang -- Product Manager
Zhibin Zhang -- Prototyper
Mengying Wang -- Lead User Researcher
Linya Li -- Mentor
Time passes, and people age. The aging process is accelerating around the globe. Unfortunately, more and more seniors, after their retirements, are suffering from self-abasement and depression.
To address the problem, we designed a service provider, Triangle, who aims to associate seniors with various institutions that are in need of experts and to facilitate their cooperation by integrating information and providing considerate services during the process in order to encourage the seniors to participate in social activities, rebuild their confidence and beat the senior depression.
We put a lot of efforts into the primary and secondary researches. Interviewing seniors in different assisted living facilitates in Hangzhou as well as seniors living in ordinary communities. At first, due to limited time and interviewee resources, we overestimated the importance of social communications and in result chose a high-tech online community solution.​

However, evaluations involving experts and more seniors from various environments guided us pivot our focus. Then we focused on the essential reason, lack of confidence and achievement after retirements.

Former insights gained in the first round of design process were combined together to create a new strategy. Finally second round of evaluation results validated the effectiveness of our solution.

What is our target users' pain?

The focus of our group is "Assisted Living Facilities". To better prepare ourselves for the following researches, we briefly scanned some reports and statistics, and were shocked by the fact that around 40 percents of the 65-75 year-olds, after their retirements, are currently undergoing loneliness, frustration, and a sense of being left behind. By further researches, we tried to attribute these elders’ mental health problems to their:
As research has shown, elderly people’s mental health is strongly correlated with their physical health. Those who suffer from mental distress also display symptoms like loss of appetite, increase in blood pressure, and nausea.

These findings put us in deep thought of our own families. I have seen my grandmother sitting at home for the whole day, having no idea what to do. I felt quite sorry but didn't know what I could do to improve her mood. Therefore, to design from the real needs of the elderly is just what we are responsible for the day-to-day aging society.

We decided to make our design question as:​

How might we provide better mental health support for the elders after retirement?

What did we design in the first stage?

We used a variety of secondary and primary research methods to collect information about seniors' mindsets and to investigate the reasons behind senior depression.

Popular Media Scan & Literature Review​

See Detailed findings ↓

According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), we found more than 75% of seniors around the globe showed symptoms various types of depression, including major depression, Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) and minor depression.

The term “senior depression” or “elderly depression” is used to describe this condition where seniors may show early symptoms like social withdrawal, loss of self-regard and pessimism. Medically, according to NIMH publications, senior depression may interfere with the elderly's ability to work, sleep, concentrate, eat, and enjoy life. Moreover, severe major depression may even cause a suicidal tendency.

Therefore, it was really urgent to guard against seniors' depression.

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) suggested several possible treatment options for senior depression. However, these popular treatments were borrowed from treatments used in other mental health problems without proper modifications for seniors. Thus, they more or less showed drawbacks during the treating process.

We wanted to investigate deeper to discover the essential reasons behind these drawbacks to find opportunities in order to better alleviate senior depression for the elderly.
Semi-Structured Interview

Aiming to uncover major causes for senior depression and investigate methods to reduce defects of present preventive measures, we conducted interviews with 6 seniors, 2 healthcare workers, and 1 officer at Hangzhou No.3 Social Welfare Institute.

Before the interview, we did a brainstorming to design questions. Then we organized our questions into four main parts to assure that information we got could help us achieve the research goal.

More about interview design ↓

We rephrased original research questions to the interview questions to reduce the bias and get the closest answer to facts.

For instance, we would like to discover factors that could cause senior depression. However, we didn't directly ask questions like:​

"What do you think is the possible factor for your depression?"

Because normally these kinds of questions might not only make the interviewees hard to seize the point we were asking but also are likely to induce deviation to the answers.

Questions about attitudes were highly subjective, thus we turned this question into another form as:

"Please recall your last experience when feeling upset or depressed. "

Besides, we also provided examples demonstrating our questions to inspire the interviewees. At the same time, we kept inspirations simple enough in order not to mislead them.
My soft skills in conducting psychological surveys had been significantly improved through the process. Moreover, I found:
Journey Map
After analyzing information collected from former researches, we made a journey map showing elders' experiences in the assisted living facility to identify design opportunities as well as to narrow down the insights.

Using the information gained from the primary research, we discussed 2 representative seniors' daily life of different characters (the blue line represented a more conservative elder while the black line represented an outgoing elder). Then we identified their emotional phase of each moment.

By analyzing the reason behind moments when they were in a bad mood, we found the most opportunities in:


​These two opportunities served as our starting point in the following ideation session.


At first, we invited camp members from different groups to brainstorm with us. Based on the two starting point about elders' social communications, over 110 ideas were brought up.

Next, we used a matrix to evaluate and filter these ideas. Considering the limited time during the camp and motivations within the group, we formulated four factors to rate each idea (from 1 to 5):​

Basically, most of the ideas received a mark between 13 -16. However, two solutions stood out with the same 18 marks:

1.    Local Inner-net
Building an inner-net for the elders within the living facilities allowing them to know more about their neighbors and thus make better social connections.

2.    Senior Newspaper
Launching a newspaper office enabling the elders to organize activities and broadcast news of themselves. Therefore, they may less likely to feel boring, and they could express themselves.​

Considering the present activities they already had, we chose the first idea for further development in the ideation session.

Prototyping and Evaluation

Focusing on the concept of Local Inner-net, We used KT board to make a low-fidelity version prototype and evaluated it through role play in the assisted living facilities.​

KT Board Prototype

The prototype consisted of three parts:​ TV model, Remote controller and a camera in the robot shape.

Function of each part ↓

TV model
It was used to simulate the TVs in elders' rooms within the assisted living facilities. I drew several screens to mock the channels they may switch. We would like to make some special channels displaying their neighbors' performances. The channels would be divided according to their interests.​  

Remote controller
Considering elders were more familiar with TV remote controller than other smart devices such as phones, we decided to add the interaction function directly to the remote controller. In addition to normal buttons, elders could press the green button at the left bottom to leave a voice message to a channel, and press the red button beside it to finish. We also included the "like" button to determine to which degree elders would like to communicate with others.​    

A camera in robot shape
It allowed elders to record their performances. In replace of traditional industrial-style shape, we adopted a humanoid robot shape to make a friendly impression. Elders could simply pat the robot's head to start recording and finish recording by another pat. We even gave the camera a name, "Zhuangzhuang", a popular nickname Chinese elders liked to call their children. In this way, elders may not feel like talking to a machine but feel like they were chatting with a lovely child.​

Role Play Mock Test
After a quick prototyping process, we conducted a mock test to learn:
  • Elders' happiness level before and after using the product.
  • Whether elders would have difficulties in understanding the function or using the product. Though we have taken accessibility into account when filtering ideas, the idea's high potential in attractiveness, economy, and influence still convinced us to have a try. Therefore we carefully simplified it's functions, leaving only the most basic ones, and we want to further investigate this potential problem by evaluation.
  • How elders could accept the form of interacting with neighbors on their TV.
  • Elders' willingness to expose their life to neighbors and to watch others' performances.
  • How long elders would spend on the product every day.
  • ......
We acted like the elders using the system and then interviewed elders from different societies.

Evaluation Insight
During the test, however, we found that elders were normally quite confused by the system.

Therefore, the evaluation process revealed some fundamental user ability issues, which led us to change our direction.

How did we change our direction?

Former evaluation results put us into deep thought. The fact that elders already had their own way to make social connections and that they were pretty satisfied with the current situation somehow upset us. Soon, our failing spirits revived by turning to think about deeper reasons behind this deviation in focus. Through reflecting and discussing, we found that it is because of:
  • the limited research time (24h), which constricted our interviewee sample capacity.
  • Moreover, the only assisted living facility we visited was a pretty upmarket one and was not representative enough of elders in Hangzhou enough.
Based on the inadequate research sources, our brainstorming and synthesis process could be easily misled. We took elders' social communications as the most important design opportunity. No wonder during the evaluation part, when we came to elders living in normal communities for the mock test, they showed completely different reactions and attitudes compared with elders living in the assisted living facilities.

Nevertheless, it was true that many elders showed depression symptoms, such as insomnia, at different levels. Many of the elders also reported that they always felt like a burden to their family and that this feeling had made them upset and helpless. These records proved the demand for the solution to our initial design question. Therefore, we decided to shift our focus of the solution but still hold on to our design question:

How might we provide better mental health support for the elders after retirement?

What did we design in the second stage?

Having realized that our former hypothesis was unwarranted, we restarted another round of research to investigate the essential reason behind senior depression.

Past research and evaluation experiences taught us a lot in choosing research samples and balancing different groups' proportions in order to eliminate error in results.

This time, after extensive literature review and news study, we held interviews and field study in various environments to cover the part we ignored in the first round. To get access to elders living in different environments after retirement, we went to three normal communities, a local supermarket, and another living facility to observe and collect information.

The soft skills of interviewing people I learned from the first round of researches and evaluations also did a great help in this process.

Read a story ↓

Basically, I would gently greet the elders first and briefly introduce the project we were working on. If they showed the willingness to continue the conversation, I would then naturally add the questions according to the interview outline to our conversation. When the elders talked about their feelings and attitudes, I tended to ask a series of "Why"s in order to explore the deeper reason behind their answers.

Key Insights
The more research we did, the deeper we understand elders' true attitudes about their retired life. What surprised us was that a lot of insights we discovered could also be validated by former research records in the first round. Finally, we concluded these insights into three key points and used them as our design guidelines.

Iterated Persona

Iterated Ideation
After research, we conducted another ideation session focused on the solutions towards:

Seniors' detachment to society after their retirement.

We found that at first, we were limited by the assumption that seniors were in need of others’ help because of their aging body conditions. However, further user researches subverted this hypothesis. This has inspired us to reconsider seniors’ role in our society, from passive assistance receivers to active assistance providers:

Why can’t seniors offer help?

​In fact, their rich experiences are unique and precious resources of the society! These experiences can be transformed into values and in this way bring them a sense of achievements again! As they deserve more attention than they currently receive, we would like to design something aiming to change the situation.

It was a huge challenge because we were just left with half of the time to design a new system. Fortunately, what we have learned from the first attempt helped a lot. Finally, after several rounds of narrowing down the ideas, we chose the final concept of a strategy design to help seniors to achieve their own values.

Iterated Concept
Overall the solution is strategy helping seniors to eliminate feelings of emptiness and depression after retirements. The strategy we designed consists of three main parts:

1.    Triangle.
Triangle, a service platform, is the pivot of the whole system. Triangle acts as a media between institutes and seniors. It also facilitates their cooperation by giving services along the whole process.

2.    Institutes.
They provide opportunities for seniors with various remuneration. In return, they can get professional assistance from the seniors at lower prices than hiring younger experts. Moreover, they could set up good corporate images.  

3.    Seniors.
After noticing the easily-accessible news (e.g. newspaper or billboard) broadcasted by Triangle, they can directly contact Triangle to sign up for the activities of their interest. They are also invited to give remarks afterward.

Triangle was named after the "triangle-shape" relationship of the three components. The logo is made of a triangle shape and the Chinese character pattern inside. The word ”不老“ in Chinese had a meaning of ”not being old“. In this way, Triangle aims to act like:
  • A spotlight,
    revealing the valuable resources seniors have accumulated through their lives.    
  • A bridge,
    giving the society access to seniors instead of integrating them into society.  
  • A bell,
    trying to break the society’s stereotype towards the seniors.
It is not helping seniors in job searching. Instead, it tries to offer better mental support for seniors. There could be further detailed senior-friendly services like reminders, pick-ups and health insurance, etc. ​​

Iterated Prototyping
We did a role play and made it into a video to illustrate the workflow.

Using some graphic design materials, the video showed how triangle helps a company to make a documentary about seniors. We would like to emphasize the emotional change before and after experiencing Triangle's service of the main character, Guixiang Wu, who have suffered from Cultural Revolution in China and was invited to tell her own stories in the documentary.

Role:  Guixiang Wu (Linya Li);
            Documentary Director (Mengying Wang);
            Triangle Worker (Chunhan Chen);
            Courier (Zhibin Zhang).​​​​​​​
Voice: Chunhan Chen​ 
Camera: Yiwei Xu, Mengying Wang 
Lead Editor: Chunhan Chen, Zhibin Zhang

Iterated Evaluation
We brought the solution back to visite the seniors again and asked them for feedbacks. Moreover, we also contacted local institutions such as museums, schools, farms etc, who were in need of experienced experts. The evaluation process proved the effectiveness of our solution and provided us with some constructive insights:​
  • Two-thirds of the elders were excited about these activities, through which they could fulfill themselves and create values. They also mentioned that this could make them less feel like burdens to other family members.​
  • Some elders were a little bit confused about our broadcasting methods. They hope to add new sign-up ways such as directly writing to the office.​
  • Local institutes, especially museums and farms, showed strong interests to cooperate with us. Normally they had to pay high salaries to employ experts in relevant fields, such as agriculture or history, but now seniors could become cheaper but more precious experts with their own life experiences! Besides, activities like these could help the institutes to form and maintain positive social reputation.
  • ​Several institutes showed concerns about the seniors' safety during the activity. By further communication with seniors and other stakeholders, we raised a proposal to solve the problem by inviting the institute to buy senior health insurance as part of the remuneration.

What did I learn during the process?

The biggest lesson I learned from the project is to jump out of the box through team working when designing for problem-solving strategies. Sometimes it would be hard to notice the stereotype by oneself because he or she could be too used to it. Therefore, team working is necessary to generate innovative ideas. For example, at our first round of designing, we were constricted by our various stereotype towards seniors. Our opinions might have varied, but we all believed that seniors should be the assistance receiver. However, after the first evaluation session, we started to change our focus. This time, brainstorming inspired us to think "out of the box" ---- what if seniors wanted to offer help? Thus we had the second solution, which proved to be a success.

Besides, my interviewing soft skills were also improved a lot during the extensive researches. I learned how to design and ask proper questions in order to get the actual information we needed. Moreover, I practiced leading a conversation or discussion using my logic thinking, which at first was a considerable challenge but gradually became easier and interesting.

Problem & Solution
Pain Point
First Round Design
Pivot Direction
Second Round Design
Final Concept
Final Prototype