Age Friendly Service Design at NCAD


PIVOT Dublin were delighted to have Dr David Robinson and other people in various fields of expertise as Guest Curators of our blog in April 2013. These posts share insights into how we can discover new approaches to meeting the challenges and opportunities that an ageing society brings.

How might we re-imagine non-clinical health services for the Liberties area? How could we draw on local assets and capabilities to deliver this new service? This was the starting point for a recent collaboration between 3rd year Product Design students at NCAD and the Liberties Asset Mapping Project.

Working with guidance from service designer Re Dubhtaigh the students started this project with an in depth ethnographic research phase. In teams of three they explored the Liberties area; sparking conversation, conducting surveys and observing and documenting human behaviour. We wanted them to build a meaningful understanding of local people, their skill sets and existing social networks that could feed into the design of a new age friendly service.

We were interested in who the elderly talk to about their health ‘Do you tell your hairdresser more than your doctor?’ and where they get health related information ‘Who teaches you most about healthy eating – Jack Roche veg shop owner on Meath Street or your local GP?’. Perhaps these existing information networks could be used to help improve health outcomes in the Liberties area.

Over the next 4 weeks the teams worked together to design and test new ideas for services. The final outcome was a diverse range of concepts for simple, low cost and localised services. Some of the ideas challenged ‘A dating club to help educate the elderly about STD’s’ and others surprised ‘Lets use existing brewing skills to build a healthy social club’. Many offered simple but effective solutions like ‘SEED – a labelling system that helps people with common health issues buy appropriate food’.

Whilst these projects don’t provide a complete solution they do offer a wide variety of starting points for how we might create new non-clinical health services. In the context of an ever changing background for health service delivery in Ireland they point towards a more holistic human centred approach.

Sam Russell is an industrial designer and lecturer with the National College of Art and Design, who used design principles to enhance services in Dublin 8 for older people. This work was presented as a part of Active Age 2012 – a Dublin City of Science activity.


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