More seniors are "aging in place" and continuing to live in their own homes. Although this gives them more independence, it also leads to loneliness and depression. The Internet is an excellent way for people to stay in touch, but not all seniors find it simple to use.
Kibo is an Internet of Things product designed for a school project. The assignment was to choose a target audience, identify a need, and create an IoT solution that can meet those needs. Kibo is a social app with a voice recognition device that was designed to provide companionship and an outlet to keep aging parents and their loved ones always connected. It is designed to make technology more accessible, reducing the need to interact with a digital interface and more with an at-home companion.
To learn more about what issues arise when choosing to "age in place," we visited a local assisted-living center to interview a few seniors who come to part-take in day activities, but live in their own homes. We also surveyed people who have aging parents in order to get their take on their parents' living situation.
One of the discoveries we made was there were mutual struggles where loved ones did not have the time to visit their parents/grand parents as they thought they should. The seniors sought out activities to stay occupied, but it required someone to drive them. Most did not live close enough to be able to tend to their immediate needs.
The focus of our research was around 1) other existing IoT products/apps for seniors 2) what existing voice-recognition technology can do 3) insights about "aging in place" and 3) how to design with accessibility in mind. Nesta shares an interesting report on systematic innovation for the aging population. "To feel at home and connected to others" is one of three factors research points out as wants by older people.
To test our ability to design UI for the seniors, we created three flows for the Kibo app. To see how they interacted with Kibo, one of the flows included communicating with Kibo the device to play a video. We did two rounds of testing, which included getting feedback on the UI and deciding which form factor the users preferred. The winning persona for Kibo, as we had guessed, was tailored to feel more like a companion that they could speak to.
The group of individuals we tested with were seniors who have interacted with very little smart phone technology; if they did, it was in their much later years. Although the individuals did not have too many issues navigating the tasks we created or interacting with Kibo with commands, most said they would sill feel comfortable writing things down on paper. Although the feedback at the time killed the spirit of our IoT concept, it was a great takeaway to realize that adoption of new technology is not so easy for this specific generation. It would be an interesting study to test with the next generation that has lived with smart tech a lot more.