Laleh Davoodi is a software developer from Iran who’s currently studying Leadership and Service Design at the Turku University of Applied Sciences. As a part of her language studies, she spent a month here at Taiste. In this blog post, she talks about her ongoing study on the state of elderly care in Finland – and how technology and UX Design could help with a fair share of its problems.
The state of elderly care in Finland
Finland has one of the oldest populations in Europe. The number of people over 65 in Finland is estimated to rise to 30% by 2050. As a result, there is a threat that the increasing number of elders requiring special care is not balanced by an equal rise in resources or funding. One solution to make the caretaking experience more complete could be technology. Technology can mitigate the lack of trained caregivers and the shortage of domestic care places. Moreover, technology such as a continuous monitoring tool could connect the elderly who are living alone at their home with medical professionals staff or relatives and increase their well-being by analyzing their life data, thus bringing more transparency to the traditional methods of caregiving.
Our study on the topic
During the past year, my classmate Suvi and I have been searching and investigating the current situation of elderly care in Finland. The goal of our research is to gather insights and requirements of caregivers, elders and their relatives by applying service design methods such as observation, interviews, workshops and such to analyze and understand their pains, frustrations, and bottlenecks of the current process. Moreover, by understanding the current processes, the steps and the points at which technology could be utilized to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process are also detected and defined.
Who Am I?
I was a computer programmer when I was living in Iran, but at the moment I am studying Leadership and Service Design, and also Finnish language in Turku. As a part of my practical training period, I joined Taiste to practice both Finnish and service design. This was a great opportunity and a learning journey for me.
Working with the UX designers at Taiste convinced me that there is still so much that can be done in service design, UX design, gadget design and such that, when specifically built for this part of the society, can make the lives of the elderly more joyful and comfortable.
Aside from my personal interest in senior people and the fact that they always remind me of my beloved grandparents, I always thought there is not enough services or software which really designed for the elders to help them tackle their daily challenges. Working with the UX designers at Taiste convinced me that there is still so much that can be done in service design, UX design, gadget design and such that, when specifically built for this part of the society, can make the lives of the elderly more joyful and comfortable.
Understanding the Elders
Elders face many challenges inside and outside of their home: from remembering to take their medication, eat and drink and get through daily tasks to getting help in case of physical injury. Moreover, loneliness and feeling of isolation are huge problems among the older population.
It is also acknowledged that the health of the elderly could be improved, maintained and developed by technological support. As a result, the challenges of ageing societies will open areas of opportunity in the countries that are facing these challenges, such as Finland, where technology innovation can improve the living conditions of the elderly and mitigate the risks and difficulties of their daily life by building a possibility to develop their well-being.
Home vs. nursing homes
At the moment, society seems to encourage the elderly to stay at their homes instead of going to an elderly care home. Also, the elders themselves prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible. However, the sad truth is that there is not enough technology or equipment to support them while they stay at their homes and if something happens, often no one will help or even notice.
The sad truth is that there is not enough technology or equipment to support them while they stay at their homes and if something happens, often no one will help or even notice.
It is common that a caregiver goes to the elder’s home to observe their situation, but due to the short length of the visit, might not notice the changes in the elder’s functional or cognitive capabilities. When the changes do finally get noticed, it may be too late for early intervention. By avoiding situations like these, the caring cost would be reduced noticeably and the elders would be living in their preferred environment with a higher quality of life.
Based on the benchmarking done by our team, available technologies in the market are not truly integrated and designed to support the need of the elders or they are unknown or not mass produced in the market.
Also, it’s very important to consider the fact that for elders, dealing with new technologies is affected by their general challenges of learning new skills due to their possible physical, visual and cognitive limitations. Initially, our team proposed to redesign and reconstruct the whole home care service as a digital-first service which is supported by physical caregiving and technology. With the help of technologies such as continuous monitoring tools, lack of resources like trained caregivers and nurses can also be mitigated.
Where are we now?
The research is an ongoing project because unfortunately, despite all the effort done by our team, we could not get a chance to visit any elderly care homes in Finland. Thus, we decided to change the approach of our thesis to a more theoretical and research-based one. Via service design approaches, we hope this research can provide some insights for people who are willing to work in this field (such as senior care specialists), to come up with sustainable solutions for demographic ageing in order to prolong their independent and healthy life in the future.
So how did my time at Taiste affect the project?
Taiste is all about the simplicity of the design, and I got a sense of how “simplicity is beauty” can affect the culture and process of development in an innovative company. I knew that the simplicity of the design would be a great mindset when designing for seniors, and my time at Taiste further assured me of this.