Remote services for older people

For a consortium of public sector organisations in The Netherlands STBY is working on a user-driven innovation proces aiming to develop new remote services that support older people to live independently at home. Moving to a retirement home is not something most older people are looking forward to. Luckily nowadays, it is possible to get a lot of care and support at home. Remote services have a potential to offer people a maximum of flexibility and independence. In every stage of this project people from the target group, older people and their carers, have been involved in order make sure the team works with their perspective firmly in mind.

The consortium of client organisations include two primary care providers (Zuidzorg and PlusExtra), a local council (Gemeente Geldrop-Mierlo) and a building society. The agencies commisioned to facilitate the public engagement and concept development proces are STBY and Waag Society. The project has been ongoing since July 2009. First an early stage exploration, which was later followed by a service concept development, service blueprinting, prototype building and validation by the target group.

One of the starting points for the project was the observation that when older people become care dependent they often find it hard to get used to the range of support services available but new to them. Specifically remote services have a high entry barrier at this stage. The aim of this project is to develop new services that invite older people to familiarise themselves with remote support services before they become care dependent. The objective of the first step in the project was to discover what type of services people would welcome into their lives at this stage. Later in the project the ideas and prototypes of new services were discussed and validated with older people and their carers in a series of interviews and co-creation sessions.

From the point of view of the target group the main benefit of these new services would be that they offer an opportunity to connect more easily to organisations and other people from the comfort of their homes. The primary target group is people aged 75+ who live independently at home. They are still reasonably healthy, but less mobile than before. The secundary target group are the family, neighbours and close friends of these older people, who regularly help out with little tasks and generally keep an eye out for how things are going. The remote services aim to facilitate the day to day communications between these people, as well as enabling contact with care organisations.

From the feedback elicited from the target group seems to be clear that they expect to benefit from a service that will allow them to stay socially active and connected while they are getting less mobile. They can continue their participation in social networks and events, and while doing so familiarise themselves with the remote services that may one day become important for their contact with care organisations.

For the organisations in the client consortium the biggest change is that for these new services they no longer position themselves as the organisations that ‘solve peoples problems’. With WSG they now also position themselves as organisations that facilitate people to solve their own problems, while they still can. This is a new and appropriate way of addressing a target group that does not consider themselves as people who need help or care yet. They would otherwise be averse of any service offering in this context, which is currently the main barrier for the uptake of remote care services.

Another major achievement for the organisations in the client consortium is the learning process about user-driven innovation and co-creation. This way of working was fairly new to them. They were easger to learn more about this, as they genuinly want their organisation to be more customer oriented, but they had little experience with the appropriate methods for this. STBY and Waag Society, as experts in this field, have taken care to involve the client team in every step of the process. A full documentation of the the process is currently being produced in a booklet for internal use. The organisations aim to do more of these kind of projects in the future.

The co-creation process in this project involved the target group at every stage. The need assessment, concept development and prototyping were all validated with older people and their carers. These validations acted as key performance indicators during the design process. They focused on two aspects. First, does the target group understand the (intermediate) result? And second, how do they perceive and describe the value of the result, if any?

You can download an extended case-study of the Zuidzorg project here. Alternatively, you can learn more about STBY’s work in the care sector by contacting Bas at