An Immersive Learning Experience- In-depth Interview with an Elderly in Sham Shui Po

If I need to describe the feeling I had yesterday after interviewing the elderly, I would say it was as overwhelming as getting dumped by a big wave. There was too much information out there, which could only be digested by a good night’s sleep.

So, let’s get the story started! For easier communication, let’s call the elderly I interviewed yesterday Mr. X.

Did we miss the chance to talk to some truly “lonely elderly” because they refuse to talk to us?

My teammate Dhiraj and I set out to “hunt” for “lonely elderly” in last Sunday afternoon. It was just after the rain and a bit humid in the air. We walked by a park called Sham Shui Po Park and saw a couple of elderly people sitting on the benches. We then decided to approach them. After a long time of “preparation”, I approached an elderly listening radio. “ No no no” he said. And same for the second elderly. I didn’t have time to feel desperate as my teammate Dhiraj encouraged me to approach other elderlies.

Though literally we didn’t spend a lot of time to find our first interviewee, I have been always thinking about the two elderly who refused to talk to us in the beginning. After all, as a ux designer, I have always tell other people how important it is to listen to people’s story with heart and empathy. However, it was not until yesterday that I realized it was a luxury to even get your target group to tell you the story.It was since then, that I realized how much time you need to devote to building the connection and empathy between the social lab-er and the target social group to get the real story. I started to admire the efforts by Joy, a presenter at the earlier open class, who started the program of “social listening” to collect the citizens’ stories.

Mr. X kept talking about the political issues, which seemed to be not really relevant to the research. Should I stop him?

As Mr. X was reading newspaper in the park when we approached him, I asked about what kind of news he liked to read and he started to talk about his favorite topic- politics. He started to try to return the topic to politics in the following whole interview session- even when I asked about something some personal. He kept talking about the same opinion and to be honest, I felt a bit boring and time- consuming. I tried to break into the “presentation” by Mr. X several times to try to direct him back to the conversation. But there were other times when I felt I should be more patient and listened to whatever he said. As a matter of fact, I think in general, male interviewee tend to talk more about news and things that are less directed to their personal life compared with female interviewee. I think could remind myself of this and thus I can better handle this situation next time.

Sad about his “chosen loneness”

i felt quite sad when I asked him about how he interacted with other people in his surrounding environment. (only with friends, rarely with family or people living in the neighborhood). He said he had to work till 2 am in the morning so there was rarely that chance. I felt sad because I knew how positive it could be to have a good intimate relationship with family members and I felt he didn’t realized that he could do so even if work is busy. Maybe he tried and failed, thus felt disappear and never tried to build a positive relationship again. Maybe the situation is not as bad as I thought, but my intuition told me that he didn’t know how to build an intimate relationship(which he didn’t know or didn’t have the courage to admit) and a little bit of training on that would help him out a lot.

All in all, I am so thankful for the change to join the program and learn with everyone. For the confusion and frustration, I am thankful for them as well because it was these feelings that led me to deeper reflections. I feel so happy to join this big experiment and learn from here. It’s just day 3 and I am so looking forward to the rest of it!

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