Wen and I are in DC participating in the Healthca.mp DC session at Kaiser Permanente. The unconference is an excellent concept – a group of interesting people with session and an agenda that is created organically – and this version applied to healthcare, pioneered by Mark Scrimshire, works particularly well.
Regina Holliday presenting at Healthca.mp DC
We led one of the sessions on changing attitudes of corporates to the aging market, which is suboptimal for at least two reasons:
- Lack of elder-aware product design (e.g. 50% of seniors can’t read the labels on consumer products)
- Lack of flexible workforce policies to accommodate older workers.
We had a good discussion with a diverse group of about 15 people, and here are my summary takeaways:
MESSAGES FOR THE COMPANIES THEMSELVES
- Companies need to include support for caregivers as part of their workforce flexibility. This is also relates to definitions above, since most people don’t self-identify as caregivers.
- Companies should internalize intergenerational and interdisciplinary thinking. Let’s have them on design teams. We heard about an 80 year-old Twitter user who has found new meaning in life from finding her online voice. Exposure to seniors helps reduce the ‘fear’ many have.
- Know your audience. Do companies even know who their audience is? How about the toy makers – do they know that many of their customers are actually grandparents buying gifts for their kids?
- Target the grandchildren more. They are interested but less emotionally involved. We heard from Jessica who has been given the power of attorney over her grandmother, over her father, since she’s more likely to make the objective decisions.
- Repurpose products. Often products can work for many different users – with only small modifications. Already the iPad and Wii are used by both seniors and children, mostly because it’s simply well designed, and they have both become useful platforms for innovation for both demographics.
MESSAGES FOR 3RD PARTIES (E.G. INDUSTRY COMMENTATORS)
- Agree on common definitions. Today these are tough, and missing. Words can put people off, and lack of definitions fails to constrain the market.
- Short term implications for the industry are needed. Business managers are not impressed with demographic charts showing the aging shift by 2050, since they may not be around themselves by then, let alone in the same job. Focus on 5 year timetable.
- Use narratives to tell stories. Regina Holliday’s Walking Gallery is a great example of delivering powerful stories. We need more powerful narratives in multimodal formats.
- Agree design guidelines. There should be simple guidance about what kinds of design constraints product makers should keep in mind to encourage universal design.
- More data is needed about existing sales channels. For example the hypothesis was made that a large number of seniors are using catalogs instead of online channels, but how many?