Starting with a week long course on User Research (led by some fine folks from ReD Associates) and continuing with our Graphic User Interface course (led by Niels Clausen-Stuck), we made three visits to elderly homes here in Copenhagen. The first two visits were to gain insights on the lives of residents and staff in these homes and to practice methodologies we were learning in the User Research course. The third visit, more than two weeks later, was to test the feasibility and desirability of different concepts for projects we were pursuing in our GUI course.
Elderly homes, especially in a foreign country, made for a challenging but interesting setting to gain hands on experience with User Research. The first visit was mostly about observation — fly-on-the-wall observation, collecting evidence through photography, etc… The second day was more focused on conducting interviews using questions and topics we carefully prepared beforehand. Talking to staff was quite easy because they mostly spoke English, although they were incredibly busy. Our talks with the residents had to be facilitated by a Danish speaker but went fairly smoothly. We also spent time talking with residents suffering from Dementia which required that we improvise with our questions and find other ways to gain understanding about their lives in the home.
Our final visit (some groups made further visits) was halfway through our GUI course. We developed several concepts for screen based applications designed to improve life in the elderly home and we needed feedback from the people that would be using these devices. We created simple prototypes and prepared more questions and were luck enough to sit down with Anne. She happily answered our questions, followed our instructions through a couple of scenarios and then showed us specific things in the home relating to our project.
Keep reading for more photos…
Lunch was a great opportunity to have an informal interview with some of the staff and residents. At Bethania, everyone ate lunch together in a common dining room. What are the social dynamics of this room and why did these gentlemen choose to sit together each day?
The “Memory Room” in Bethania was an interesting use of common space. This room was filled with old objects that many of the elderly people took pleasure in interacting with. What if these were personal objects from people’s lives?
The main communal area in Afteonsol had a computer, dartboard, piano and lots of seating. Who visited this room? What activities was it used for?
Interviewing a nurse at Afternsol in one of the main dining areas. What is her daily routine? Where does she have the most trouble? Where does she have the least trouble?
A common site in the homes — empty hallways. How does this change the perception of home?
Talking with Ruth in her apartment. What was brought from your previous home? Why are these things important?
Showing Anne a concept for an interactive picture frame. She provided valuable feedback about the buttons, the photos, the descriptions. Thanks, Anne!
Discussing photographs currently on display in the hallways. Anne made the observation that even though these photos are from the Summer outing, many of the people are no longer at the home. How do these photos create a sense of home? How would you change these photos?
One of the driving inspirations for our final concept was a wall of photos and postcards in Anne’s apartment. When asked about the subject of the photos, Anne would flip it over and read notes on the back so that she could remember what they were about.