The senior population and their demand for caregiving services, especially for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, are on the rise around the world. While care is being covered for some of those in need, it is becoming more evident that not enough time is spent on mental stimulation via recreational and social activities.
It is BoomerangLIFE’s goal to enhance the seniors’ lives through mental stimulation and social interaction while educating those who care for them about how important it is to properly address the individual inside and to not assume that memory-challenged seniors are unresponsive.
Having a small group of four designers assigned for this project was quite favourable for all of us to be involved in almost every UX step that we went through. Most of our research and planning stage was done by the hole team where everyone would have their input.
I took the role of managing our calendar and tasks, such as communication with the client and setting up interviews, and drafting up the documentation of our project to be handed off. I also served as a facilitator, providing direction and managing the design language, ensuring consistency in the Sketch files and assisting with the use of the software and introducing Abstract for our group to work on the same files collaboratively.
In the later stages of prototyping, I participated in tying together our clickable Invision prototype and also performed a couple of user tests.
When presented with this brief, we, the UX design team, started out with an idea of what our brief was, but we were only able to really see how we would solve the problem once we dove deeper into the world of care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
After doing the necessary research and analysis you will see below, our focus then became clear. By combining the existing needs with our client’s values we decided that the goal for the project was:
To ease existing facilitators into running recreational programs in an effective, respectful and considerate way for the seniors they care for.
Who is it really for?
In an effort to provide a clear insight to whom we were designing for, we combined our research results — domain research, interviews, contextual inquiries, survey results, etc — and visualized it as an ecosystem. A tool that serves as a graphic visualization of your system or a portion of it and maps its interactions, relationships and processes. This allowed us to confirm that the experience that happens around the device is just as important as what is happening in the app.
Through our research, there was more and more indication that although the senior persona is the final user to benefit from the app’s recreational activities, there was a need to examine further the facilitators’ role in our experience.
Our app needed to reinforce that it is a tool for the facilitator to expand from it and get the most out of an interaction with the seniors. Therefore we need to get the facilitator involved for our end-user, the seniors, to be able to properly benefit from the mental stimulation and social interactions our app will provide.
Prioritizing main things to tackle
Our ecosystem revealed a whole platform in which there were many opportunities to work on and problems to be solved. But in order to have our MVP fulfil the project goal, we had to focus on only the essential and what could fit in our short timeline.
Those 3 items would not only accomplish our project goal but also allow our client to release a usable product from the start but also with the ability to continue growing towards a robust platform.
Having previously defined the facilitator as our primary user, we found that a lot of these facilitators can also be of older age, for example, a 50+ family member. So it was still important to cater to a few things:
- Addressing accessibility by working with colour contrast and large text
- Using signifiers wherever possible
- Keeping the number of interactions per screen to a minimum
- Response time consideration
- Conversational tone and guidance
Not only would those considerations help our older facilitators, but it would enable seniors with a higher level of cognition to use the app for activities with little guidance, while also keeping things nice and simple for new users, for example, a volunteer, to get up and running quickly.
When designing the screens we focused more on the function rather than delivering a fully finished UI. So our final project consisted of a mid-fidelity prototype, with a very simple UI that was still focusing on important accessibility elements such as contrast, sizing, hierarchy, and the user flow.
The very next steps after we were done with our design was to do a developer hand-off through our client. In order to do that we documented not only all of our research and design process but also tips and ideas for continuing on with the project.
For me, there were a few things I’d like to elaborate more on, such as the capabilities of the different account types, and also figuring out ways to record more information about the seniors, like gauging their mood before and after each session and measuring the influence of the activity on their mood, for example.