Wizdom Design Challenge
Role: UX Designer, UX Researcher. Duration: 3 weeks
In Spring 2020, I performed a design challenge at NYU. We were asked to contemplate how technology may be used to solve societal issues. While being separated from my grandparents during the pandemic, I was inspired to research the best ways to stay connected during lockdown and beyond.
People like the elderly have difficulty with staying connected during the pandemic due to social distancing. Lacking social interaction is highly damaging both mentally and physically.
Loneliness may be alleviated with a mobile application that establishes a buddy system. The service matches users who answer daily prompts and stay connected through the use of asynchronous voice messages.
I conducted quantitative and qualitative research to learn more the elderly, technology use, and social interaction. I discovered that nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Interestingly, older adults were eager to adopt new technology.
More information for the research:
“Seniors with Skills, Online Buddy Program” helps the elderly be more sociable during the pandemic. For 30 minutes once a week, more than 200 volunteers are using technology to make connections with seniors around Buffalo. During these chats, everyone shares stories. My project is larger in scope, focusing on pairing virtual buddies throughout the United States.
“Papa” is a service that matches millennial-aged workers with older adults to assist them with everyday tasks, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions. Papa pals are paid to be caregivers and receive health-related information about the seniors, such as medication. As a result of the pandemic, Papa provides virtual companionship to provide assistance.
I interviewed 10 people. They consisted of 3 senior citizens, 3 people who have worked for retirement communities, and 4 young adults. I found the following insights:
- Elderly who spend time with their families may not be interested in a virtual buddy system, but those without close relationships do
- Elderly prefer audio messages or calling over text messaging
- Elderly who lack relationships are willing to learn new technology
- Closed senior homes offer virtual services, such as Zoom meetings
- Technology helps the elderly be less lonely, such as WhatsApp, FaceTime, and Zoom
- In a virtual buddy system, privacy is an issue
- Young adults enjoy receiving wisdom from the elderly. Likewise, the elderly enjoy sharing wisdom
Kathryn, director of a senior center in Brooklyn: “They’ve been very isolated and for preexisting conditions, things have had more time to become more pronounced. You know, anxiety. Certain mental health conditions. They miss their routine. I’m program director of the senior center so they’re missing coming to their congregate settings. They’re missing their friends. We are so fortunate that we’ve had two social media platforms before the pandemic.”
80-year-old Sasha, retired journalist in Brooklyn: “I don’t have social media, but I want to stay in touch with people. This platform would be useful. I would talk mostly about politics and culture.”
23-year-old Shreya, social worker: “Audio messages are a really good idea. WhatsApp is really good about that. Instead of just sending a text message, you can just send an audio message.”
Based on my sketch and user journey, I created a rapid prototype in Figma. I sent my prototype to three users. They tested by screen recording their experiences. I found the following insights:
- Larger prompt for questions when recording
- Record option should not fill whole screen
- Include clear send button
- Question prompt should replace the day
- Add language option in registration
- Create return to home button
The mobile application is named Wizdom. The service matches young adults with the elderly. Each day, the users send asynchronous voice messages to each other based on daily prompts that evoke wise answers.
Throughout the process of this project, I learned the importance of staying connected. Social isolation leads to both physical and mental damage. Once the pandemic ends, the elderly still need better ways to stay connected. My research and interviews showed that the elderly are willing to learn new technology. Lastly, I found that social networking platforms have been proven to alleviate loneliness.