Hearing what seniors think about shoes, orthotics, walking, the prevention of falling and related mobility issues.
Our graduate seminar ‘Aging in Place’ at SF State focuses on inclusive design. I started this project with an interest in shoes, shoe ergonomics, balance issues, walking, falling, and fall prevention. My final project looked at problems around shoes, orthotics, and how technology and design could help change the user experience for the better.
There was a wide range and substantial difference among seniors I interviewed regarding their cognitive and physical abilities. Their living conditions varied from living in assisted living facilities to living completely independent. The seniors in assisted living facilities are happy most of the time with their conditions. They don’t talk about problems; my observations in addition to talking to them gave me very useful insight. I also interviewed seniors who were very sharp, very fit, walk regularly, and are educated and aware of the challenges that come with aging. They would be ideal co-designers for projects. My interviews with experts, professional shoe fitters and kinesiologists became crucial for my project.
How did you use the HCD Toolkit and / or human-centered design as part of the project?
Our seminar was structured around using the HCD toolkit for our semester-long project. We had the opportunity to visit senior homes, assisted living facilities, conducted individual, expert and group interviews. Observation, in-context immersion, seeking experience in new context were great experiences and very useful tools for my project. Brainstorming, prototyping and expert feedback were useful tools in producing the final outcome.
What was the biggest challenge that the project faced? Did you overcome it?
Our project didn’t start with a project brief, it started with HEARing. My area of interest in walking was very broad, so narrowing down the focus of my project and identifying people to interview with one specific problem became a challenge.
What is (or will be) the impact of your project?
Working with the elderly helped me identify a range of problems and helped to develop empathy. The outcome of my project is a concept of a women’s footwear brand, a product system service that provides flexibility with off-the-shelf as well as custom solutions. The orthotics and shoe are made together to provide a seamless product in the end.