Collection No 3
Our Aging in Place initiative is focused on exploring product and service solutions that encourage the continued autonomy, independence and wellbeing of seniors who are aging at home. After our initial research and ideation phases, we found ourselves returning to a core set of themes that were fundamental to each of the varied seniors we…
Our Aging in Place initiative is focused on exploring product and service solutions that encourage the continued autonomy, independence and wellbeing of seniors who are aging at home. After our initial research and ideation phases, we found ourselves returning to a core set of themes that were fundamental to each of the varied seniors we interviewed: Identity – “Help me stay ME,” Sociability – “Help me stay engaged,” Routine – “Help me stay in control,” and Activity – “Help me stay mentally and physically active.”
Whether it was keeping track of one’s medication managing multiple doctors’ appointments, or keeping in touch with loved ones, a key lever for meeting these four themes is simple and consistent access to information exchange between the elderly, their families and friends and the caregivers in their support ecosystem. To tackle the challenge of information access and continuity, we recognized that communication would need to be facilitated across a myriad of places, objects, and users in a gently scaffolded, connected, and seamless way. Each connection point would need to “speak in a language” that all understand, and easily “push and pull” information to and from this personal information network at anytime. We envisioned an invisible ecosystem of connected devices that instantly recognize and communicate with one another, in an intelligent and responsive way.
To test our concept, we prototyped an Arduino-based, ultra-low-cost mesh network of nRF24l01 wireless transceivers that were small enough to be installed in virtually any device. This platform enabled a “always on” channel of personal information to pass through any number of everyday objects, devices and places in the home, or even on the body in the form of clothes or jewelry. For instance, a hallway nightlight could detect frequency of motion (or, of course, a fall) and provide that insight on activity to the appropriate person in the care system; a small sensor attached to Grandma’s watch could capture tremors that indicate health alerts as well as be a simple communication device for vitals like blood pressure, temperature, and more. The point is to make these interactions “always on,” and hidden in plain sight, requiring minimal to no installation, and made using extremely cost-effective components (under $10/node). The impact and possibility in such a data capture and exchange platform could revolutionize the how we envision the connected home of the future.
Often more than anything, our aging family members simple want to be who they’ve always been, for as long as they can. Inherently, this means staving off the reversal of roles from parent to child for as long as is safely possible. A connected environment enables the senior, their family, friends, and care providers to focus on the conversations that matter – How are the grandchildren? Where do we want to go on summer vacation? How was the report card this term?
In addition to the social and well-being benefits or a more connected life, this integrated sharing of information across an elder’s support ecosystem enables more frequent opportunities for useful, clinical insight. Such consistent and high fidelity information can be critical in identifying emerging health conditions in their earliest phases – a time when we all recognize medical interventions are most effective. Furthermore, at a population level, building this pool of health and lifestyle information for such a specific age demographic makes it possible to recognize chronic disease progression patterns through a population – leading to improved cohort management and better treatment possibilities.
As digital engagement continues to migrate from consolidated sources (desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones) to more distributed sources (glass, walls, fabric, watches, jewelry, furniture, etc.), we are confronted with a sea change in how humans will interact with the information around us (or choose not to). Instead of being head-down on smartphones, or hunched over laptops – computation will be hidden, blending into the background and only showing itself when needed.
Mindful of the mobility, vision and hearing challenges many elderly face in their day-to-day, and aware of the bewildering rate of technological innovation, we sought to design access points into this information ecosystem that were gentle, intuitive and extremely simple. Inspired by basic mechanical-age gestures and interactions – like basic knob turns, flip switches, clicks and taps – we aimed to provide approachable and even delightful affordances for people of all ages. Some are wearable, some rely on visual displays and others leverage the power of haptic queues and ambient awareness. Some completely disappear into the background of the home and require no interface affordances whatsoever.
The low-cost and general accessibility of such a platform, and the resulting enabled devices deployed on it, present great potential for social connection and independent living for seniors, while offering greater peace of mind for those who cannot be there with them. Systems like these suggest new horizons for clinical value, as healthcare providers can be given a more detailed picture of the daily habits, patterns and health of their elderly patients – from physical activity levels and sleep, to medical adherence and treatment planning and even new frontiers like genomic health. Networked wearable and embedded computing are bringing new possibilities for an expanded circle of care to extend its reach and efficacy into patient’s lives – enabling and invigorating the home healthcare movement and opening up unprecedented opportunities for the health and well-being of seniors who look to age at home. And this is good for all of us – because home is where the heart is.
frog is a global design and strategy firm. We transform businesses at scale by creating systems of brand, product and service that deliver a distinctly better experience. We strive to touch hearts and move markets. Our passion is to transform ideas into realities. We partner with clients to anticipate the future, evolve organizations and advance the human experience.