Conference paper

Co-designing time to chat, to reflect, to get it right: young designers learn from older adults co-creating toolkits for peer-to-peer information sessions

Design Physical fitness Ageing Co-design Australia

Staying active later in life is considered important for our health. Government bodies create programs encouraging seniors to remain active and independent for maintaining quality of life. Typically, councils engage design studios to design active ageing programs where the designer/client interaction is paramount. Interest in co-designing with rather than for end-users is growing, yet some claim it takes too long or does not lead to the desired results. This is also a challenge when included in a one semester university course for design students. This study aimed to find out what happens when taking the time to co-design. Strategies were co-created across two cases with two local councils briefing the students on 1) personalized active ageing plans and 2) navigating the aged care system. Three co-design workshops were held with 22 seniors and 26 Master of Design students from an Australian university, over 12 weeks with time for design, analysis and reflection. The findings show mutual surprise from the design students and the older adults as they share stories from their own perspectives. First, the design students reflected on how time needs to be negotiated in codesign when older adults enjoy taking their time and chat and young designers are under time pressure. Second, the design students were surprised that is was these unplanned conversations that led to design ideas. The older adults were surprised at the effort invested in the co-design activities for them and how thought provoking and fun the activities were. We argue co-designing independent ageing solutions with designers and seniors is indeed a good investment of time. We conclude that also allowing the space for storytelling, and reflection, leads to empathy and mutual learning for young designers to understand older adults and for robust design responses to emerge.

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