How have products intended for older people and related advertisement materials contributed to + exacerbated age discrimination between older people and their loved ones?
*Age discrimination can include language that overgeneralizes, “others”, and infantilizes older people and frames aging as something negative.

The negative societal impacts of age discrimination are apparent + require sweeping policy updates to bring about a change. What is less explicit is how this marketing-based age discrimination impacts older people on a personal, micro level, i.e., how ageism impacts the relationships between older people + their loved ones.

We want to use this study to gain insights about these care relationships in order to propose solutions to mitigate age discrimination.
Secondary Research
It is more accurate to state that products marketed “for older people '' are intended for the caregivers of older people.
A spectrum of companies have developed systems to monitor the homes and activities of older people; but, when triggered by specific events, notify caregivers instead of the older individuals themselves. For example, the company MedMinder is a medication management system that notifies caregivers if the older individual does not take their medication within a two-hour window.
Stout, H. (2010, July 28). Technologies Help Adult Children Monitor Aging Parents. The New York Times.
The language, visuals, and concepts used in marketing to older consumers often communicate negative attitudes and perceptions of aging.
Advertisements can encode discriminatory stereotypes that assist in normalizing discrimination in everyday life. Age discrimination can include overgeneralizing, othering, and infantilizing older people and framing aging as something negative.
Tracey L. Gendron, PhD, E. Ayn Welleford, PhD, Jennifer Inker, MS, John T. White, MS, The Language of Ageism: Why We Need to Use Words Carefully, The Gerontologist, Volume 56, Issue 6, 1 December 2016, Pages 997–1006
Product marketing sells technology as a solution to aging by placing the onus on caregivers to ensure the health and safety of loved ones regardless if the technology conflicts with the desires of older individuals.
Having a near-axiomatic status in some circles, the aging-and-innovation discourse leaves little room for debate but paints an ideographic picture that is enticing, seemingly morally just, or at least correct, and thus hard to argue against. As such, this discourse profoundly shapes the future of aging.
2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
With some preconception from the papers we read, we came up with recruitment plans focusing on finding participants with a strict caregiver or care recipient role.

We came up with questionnaires, posters, and social media posts to find eligible participants.
Important Takeaway
However, we found that people don’t respond well with the term “care recipient”. In fact, these terms are too much idealized in our secondary research and are later disproved in our interviews.

In response to the underwhelmed recruitment result, we decided to broaden our focus to multi-directional care relationships.
Cultural Probe/Activity Kit
While we recruited participants, we prepared our cultural probe packages.

Each probe package contained activities to prompt participants to think about their relationships. The goal of the cultural probes was to prime our participants with relevant themes to provoke more meaningful conversations during the interview process.
Although the name of this method is Cultural Probe, we did not like the sensibility of the terminology. For the convenience of the study, we explained this to our participants as activity Kit that they can take home and have fun completing.
We have 5 activities within Each Activity Kit
Intro Cards
A simple intro to the research with handwritten name of our participants.
We asked participants to keep a journal detailing their interactions with their loved ones. Journal entries could be written, drawn, or some combination of both. We  provided prompts to help participants begin writing about these experiences.
Photo Prompt
We requested participants to take and/or gather photographs that best represent them and their care relationship.
Prompt Envelopes
We include a series of envelopes with instructions for opening at a later time. If the situation detailed on the envelope happened, then the participant would open the letter + respond to the prompt inside.
Letter to Loved Ones
We asked each participant to write a letter to their loved one. We felt this emotion-charged activity could provide some meaningful insight into their relationships.
*we ask if the participants would like to mail the letter, if consent, we will mail out the letter to denoted recipients.
We gave our ten participants their cultural probe packages to be worked on over the course of four days. During the initial hand-off of the cultural probes, we asked some general interview questions. After the four days, we met again to debrief the cultural probes. The cultural probes were used to prime participants for specific interview questions relating to each participant’s daily activities, care received and/or support given, self-reflection, and reflection on the activity kits.
Externalization & Synthesis
After gathering and cleaning up the qualitative data from interviews and cultural probes, we went through the process of coding, externalization, insights and theme defining, and synthesis.
Multi-dimensional Care Relationship
A care relationship rarely exists as a one-way relationship between two parties, e.g., caregiver + care recipient. Care relationships exist on a spectrum.
Care Comes Good and Bad
The type of care an individual provides can be determined by two intersecting factors: personal views on aging (positive & negative) + level of family cohesion (intimate & distant).
Care Comes Good and Bad
A strong connection within familial care relationships is not determined by a single factor. Connection is a multidimensional quality that can consist of physical, psychological, social, technological, economic, + environmental aspects.
“I guess the only apprehension I have is the stigma that's associated with it, that you're getting old. It's the same stigma that a lot of individuals fear when they're forced to have to start using a cane or a walker... I'm sure I'll be one of those that fight it tooth and nail, because getting old is not something that I look forward to. - Sam
Speculative Design
In response to our insights, we came up with 20 ideas.

We then categorized them into 6 groups and picked out some most responsive ones(ideas that either express our findings well or invoke further discussion).
6 most representative ideas
An instructional magazine series that explains clearly, concisely, and conversationally how to access and use technology.
respect the autonomy + independence of older people by mitigating their dependency on others to operate basic features of devices;

improve technology literacy + build basic skills;

provide knowledge around current technologies + how they interact with each other;

keep older people active members in the growing digital world.
Evolve Design
A UI design system that adapts to physical and cognitive changes commonly associated with aging.
increasing the size of text, buttons, images, and icons;

adding labels and/or subtitles to buttons, images, icons, and video;

simplifying gestures;

use notifications to help with memory recall;

gradually introducing updates;

providing clear feedback and helpful tutorials.
AOK (Affairs in Order Kit)
An activity kit that helps people gather belongings + critical documents for their loved ones to inherit after they pass away.
saves their loved ones time, money, and suffering after they pass;

communicates their wishes and concerns to loved ones regarding their death;

avoids leaving loved ones with unwanted, insignificant clutter;

answers the “who, what, when, where” questions that their loved ones may have after they pass.
Care Link
A social media app that establishes a network of social support for members of a care relationship.
providing a safe space for users to voice their opinions, experiences, and concerns;

reminding/encouraging users to regularly engage with members of their support group via notifications;

connecting users with resources, individuals, professionals, etc.;

establishes peace of mind, i.e. users can feel calm knowing that support is available to them if they needed it;
Aging In Places
A reality television series about home design and renovation for homeowners aged 65+.
normalize aging through the proper representation of older adults in media;

start a conversation related to aging in place e.g. discuss mobility issues and how they may progress;

know which experts to turn to for advice e.g. hire a contractor for electrical changes in the home;

learn behavioral modifications that can make a home more accessible on a day-to-day basis e.g. avoid tripping hazards by keeping floors clutter free;
Wake Light
A pair of lamps that allow individuals to discreetly monitor when their loved one leaves + returns to bed during the night.
alert individuals to their loved one’s movements in an non-obtrusive way;

provide peace of mind for both parties;

respect the autonomy and independence of older people by not tracking their movement throughout the home;

make the home more accessible by lighting a room at night.
Participants Feedback
We showed our speculative ideas to some of our participants.

We found valuable insights that could guid future design in this space.
Technical Jargon
Older People(Users) sometimes don’t understand what an interface (some technical terms) is. We need to find more comprehensible ways to discuss some technical ideas.
Positive Imagery
In some of our sketches, the person are drawn struggling with technology. This is understandable, however, a more positive imagery is still desired and wanted.
Ethics Concern
In our descriptions, we sometimes omit copies of some basic ethics concern because they comes as standard to products. However, if not written out, this may seem inconclusive to participants and raise unrelated question.
Context to Idea
Sometimes, we need to converse with the participants to have an idea fully understood. This may be because that current descriptions lack context which our participants understand more than just the concept.
Understanding care relationships, and how they exist on a spectrum, can help us design for numerous diverse connections between individuals.

Fostering connections between individuals can be affected by technology usage, emotional intimacy, and fear of aging. These can end up determining the type of care provided to people in need. Working to bridge the gap between technology and older individuals can not only help foster connections but assist people when prepare for a better future.

An avoidance of aging serves as a coping mechanism, that allows people to avoid thinking about their own mortality but at the cost of a lack of meaningful connection within care relationships. Creating thoughtful ways individuals can connect with the use of design is key to empowering these relationships.

Overall, these insights on care relationships and aging is a space that is not yet fully explored. To improve these, with older individuals and their care relationships, more consideration on this subject is needed.
The Design Book
Before taking this class, I never thought doing design research and speculative design could be so much fun. I always considered myself strict product designer before. However, I enjoyed the thought process of conducting an organized research.

Although we experienced set backs with our assumption based on our secondary research, we quickly adjusted our expectation and broadened our research goal to accommodate for the change. I really begin to trust the process and begin to consider when to broaden our scope and when to narrow down.

Overall, I enjoyed exploring concepts and dive deep in the logic behind phenomenons without too much constraints of product thinking.

Although not constrained by product thinking. I do think at the end stage of ideation and concept presenting, we should put more attention to some specific ideas and have them speak more powerfully for better understanding of our audience.
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