Older people and new mums club together to combat loneliness and isolation
Friday 8 May 2009
Designers combating isolation and loneliness amongst older people have scooped the RSA Design Directions award for their proposals.
Submitting their ideas in response to the RSA’s ‘Action for Age’ brief, the designers examined some of the complex challenges presented by an ageing population and how better design might help.
Katy Shields, of Norwich University College of the Arts, response to the brief was a concept called ‘The Hub’, a community group for older people and new parents providing an environment that encourages and nurtures friendships across the generations through a range of activities. Her research drew on speaking with older people, service providers and new parents, and her own former experience as a community occupational therapist where she met many older people in their own homes.
She views this proposal as part of a longer-term solution to loneliness and isolation among older people by enlarging their social network to include younger members of the community in which they live. Katy plans to develop the project on the ground in her local area.
Sabrina Koelbl of Middlesex University submitted ‘Knit Together’, a project that makes computers, accessible to older people at no cost. It is firstly a re-cycling system whereby young people re-furbish used computers for older people and train their seniors in how to use them. Secondly, she developed a computer interface which is tailored to the specific needs of older people and uses an operating system that will function on a variety of older models of computer.
Vincenzo di Maria/Ayda Anlagan/Pu Tai (Graduates of Central St Martins) undertook their field research in Hackney and their proposal, Project Patchwork Plus, is a localised system to improve the communication of existing services to older people by delivering and gathering personalised information.
The PP+ team works in collaboration with the local council and service providers, monitoring and mediating information about potential older users and the list of services, events and activities on offer. An information pack, Patch-Pack, contains information about services in the borough for the current month, differentiated according to users’ profiles. The packs are delivered by PP+ Messengers, older community member volunteers who play a key part in the overall system.
Commenting on the winners, RSA Head of Design, Emily Campbell said:
“The finalists developed a deep understanding of the character and value of networks; and how individuals, actions, objects and places might signify those networks to alleviate social isolation. The RSA is proud to reward Koelbl, Shields, da Maria, Anlagan and Tai, these outstanding students who are really helping to blaze the trail of service design.”