Support services for independent living

For a consortium of organisations in the South of the Netherlands (primary health care, housing associations and local government) STBY and Waag Society conducted a study to identify the needs among older people for new services supporting independent living at home.

During an intense week of house visits we met with both older people living in single households, and some of their close friends or relatives who offer support if needed. The conversations about potential needs for more formal support by third parties were guided and facilitated by visual probes we prepared with the design team of Waag Society.

We used both a Social Map and a Home Environment Map to elicit information about participants’ social support network and their favourite locations and objects in their home environment. Any future support services will need to blend in successfully with these existing conditions, otherwise they are not very likely to succeed. And since the social lives and households of the older people and their helpers are quite different, the future services may need to have different appearances/interfaces on both ends.

The maps, together with various photographs and of course our consolidated research notes, were used as input for a workshop with the client team to discuss the insights from the research and to identify the opportunities for new support services. During this workshop an extended client team from several departments took part. For the home visits a core team of two people took turns in being present to observe and learn from the participants first hand.

To enable the client team to communicate the results from the study to other people in their organisations, a small book was made. This book explains and illustrates the process and the results of the study. Together with Waag Society we are currently preparing a workshop to develop concepts, inspired by the home-visits and in response to the opportunities we uncovered. Co-creation wil be our main approach in a second workshop where we will put concepts to older people and their supporters, and ask them to elaborate and give detail. Finally, the most promising concepts will be developed into prototypes as a last step before implementation.

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