Research; round 2.

My research journey so far.

After my initial synthesis I felt like I had made progress and focused down my case study to a particular service. However this meant I needed to do another deep dive into the world of home care, essentially embarking on another round of research. My goals were to speak to as many people as possible and to map out the current state of the system. As it turns out, home care for the elderly is a very topical subject in Ireland right now, a quick google search will show news articles, radio talks and TV documentaries about care of older people. As well as that, the Citizens Assembly in Ireland (an assembly to discuss policy issues of the time) is looking for submissions on the issues related to an aging society, many of these submissions show that Irish people and organisations are concerned about the state of care for older people right now. This was one of the sources of my research as many organisations that work with older people had put forward ideas on what they would like to see happen in a future Ireland. This gave me some ideas and insights into what areas are lacking right now and what needs to be improved upon.

An except from the book “Convivial Toolbox” by Liz Sanders

I anticipated that participants for this research would be harder to find but I had not planned for the time it would take to recruit people. After looking at my timetable for the rest of the project I realise now that my initial timeline proposal was way off. While it is still manageable in the time to do research and hopefully co-creation, a project like this needs significant planning when it comes to recruiting participants and setting up research and testing. So far that is one of my biggest learnings of the project. Reflecting on this if I were to start the project again I would have started planning for research a few weeks (at least) ahead of when I actually needed to conduct the research. Making contacts can take time and due to the somewhat sensitive nature of the subject, it is even more difficult to access users in my case.

That said, the interviews and research that I have done I have gained a lot of insights from and they have validated some of the secondary research. One of the key goals of this round of research was to create empathy with users and understand their situation better.

“Empathy is our ability to see the world through another person’s s eyes — it’s about giving, receiving, and feeling unity with others.” — Nick Babich

To create empathy I wanted to see people in their natural environment, to get as close to the users in their everyday lives as possible. This was hard as I hadn’t got the chance to spend a day with someone and that would take time, so I had to build my own picture of their life from the interviews and research that I had done. I quickly had some ideas about the types of things that could help/improve the current system. I found that my ideas ranged from complex system overhauls to small practical changes that could be made instantly. This made it hard to compare them against each other and decide which direction to go. To help my process of developing concepts I decided to come up with metrics or design principles that were developed from my key insights.

Key insights from my research.
Initial sketch of my design principles.

One thing that was really important to me, especially in the context of an aging society, was that my concepts were to be preventative and not reactive. By this I mean that all concepts were to maintain or improve the life of a person needing care, not just react to their needs as they changed. Simple things like keeping a person mentally active can really improve other aspects of their life such as mental and physical health. The same can be said for ensuring a person has a good social network and meaningful social interactions. These types of interventions can be low cost solutions but can really help to keep someone independent for longer, which in turn will lower costs of care in the long term. This was one of the main drivers of my concepts as I felt it is an element really lacking in the current system. In a separate project that looked into the issues of rural areas, isolation of older people was a big challenge and this was already in my mind coming into my current research. While I didn’t focus on that aspect it was clear that those assumptions were true, older people had a real need and desire for more social interaction that wasn’t being met and something as simple as this can improve other aspects of a person’s health at any stage in their life.

The next steps for my involve developing some of my ideas into more fully fledged concepts and getting some good feedback on them. At the moment I can’t predict where this project will go or what the final outcome will look like and I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing!