Create a story

An Interactive/Recreative Exercise Experience for the Physical Engagement of the Elderly Lifespace

Keeping a healthy body is the first step to having a high quality of life! This project is about designing a recreative exercise for people to have a better exercise experience.

We are a group of graduate students in the Design and Industry department of San Francisco State University. We are working on a project called “Design for living: Creating an Inclusive LifeSpace for Aging”.

Thanks to the advanced medical care and a better quality of life, people are now living longer. Population demographics indicate dramatically increase of seniors in society when the last of the baby boomers turn 55 in the near future. The fact that the aging population is getting larger, it brings not only challenges to overcome but also opportunities for designers to generate creative and stimulating solutions to keep the Elderly, active, alert and “engaged” in their “LifeSpace.”

Our Graduate Design Studio has a collaborative participatory community outreach component that has enabled the students to work with a series of elders focus groups in facilitating the HEARING process of our project development.  We had the several opportunities to visit a senior care center and interview with several residents each time, we also visited an affordable, universally designed apartment complex in Berkeley and interviewed a number of residents there. The group and individual interviews brought us insight of the residents’ needs and wants.

At this stage there are several challenges we encountered, the first was to discover the problem from our interviewing the elderly residents. One of the most common concerns and problems are that many seniors keep themselves in a safety zone, and do not do venture, or do thing that are outside of their perceived limitations. Consequently, they avoid the risks and possible benefits of discovering new ventures, or experiences that may engage their interests and physical stimulus.  

The design challenge is how to engage them into physical activities that will simultaneously stimulate their learning experiences and knowledge for optimizing their Lifespace.

Approach to the project will be a notion of creating reactive exercise for this retired phase of elderly life.  Wii Fit is a well know recreation for elderly to improve balance and avoid falls. Objective will be to design a game like lifestyle learning-experience and exercise to encourage people to use it as regular daily activity.

We are now in the Create stage and hope to get feedback from this site so we can update it with more information. 

After pervious hearing stage, I did not only deep but broad research thinking about how can we as designers to help people fulfill their second half life. I started to look at different aspects of aging people, and asking questions such as

1) What do most elderly people do in their daily life? Compare with western and eastern culture.

2) What are the reasons to stop them being more active?

3) Does being old always a negative thing?

Later on, I found out to pursue a meaningful second life, maintaining a healthy body is the first step. I started to look at the top 10 elderly disease in the world, how to prevent it and what are the causes. And study elderly exercises and how will they help senior to maintain and strengthen their physical ability.

Besides studying in physical exercise, I also did research about brain exercise. Cognition, which refers to mental process, will become slower and weaker when people get old. I did a diagram to compare the mix element of cognition and physical ability: Attention, reaction, balance, memory, strength, vision and hearing, which is the most essential one.

After doing study of physical and cognitive researches, and interviewed with experts in Kinesiology and Neuropsychology. I figured out the problem is people do not do exercise regularly because of many reasons:

1) People became adapt to a sedentary life style.

2) People could not find an appropriate exercise for them.

3) Some areas are not outdoor activities friendly places (ex. It is too cold to go outside, air pollution and etc…)

4) People lack of interesting of doing exercise

Therefore, I came up with a type of program to facilitate elderly people doing exercise with fun and at the same time learning.

Feedback from AlmaVia which is a senior care insitute is pretty good. Although in the begining, people had a hard time to understand the concept, but after futher explaination, they did understand and start to think of how would they use this program. I think the prototype indeed helped them to think of useing the program in the future.

How did you use the HCD Toolkit and / or human-centered design as part of the project?

The HCD Toolkit helps me to organize my thoughts of what I should do and to have different ways to acquire information. Empathy is also another thing I took away from HCD Toolkit, I feel it is important to feel empathy and be sensitive when interviewing elderly people.   I think empthy plays an important part during this project. We might image how would elderly people think and feel, but actually it is really hard to fully understand. Therefore, to talk to the user and immerse ourself inside of their community really helped us to have more complete view of aging.

What was the biggest challenge that the project faced? Did you overcome it?

I think the group interview is a big challenge for me. As a one who leads the interview, I found it hard to give equal attention to every member in the group. Each person has different conditions but most have hearing difficulties, I learned to be patient and to listen carefully when interview elderly people.  The biggest challenge is that I encounter many specific knowledge involve in my researches, which made me felt overwhelming all the time. However after this project, I found out sometimes the better solution is very simple, but it requires one to spend time on research, observing, literature reviews and study to figure out.

What is (or will be) the impact of your project?

The impact to the project is it increases my sensitivity towards the elderly and I hope my project can address their needs because we are all getting older and we will all face the same difficulties some day. I hope this indoor "better exercise experience" program can help people to maintain their physical and brain ability. And to strength their confidence so that they can do more outdoor activities.

Discuss this Story