For this assignment, my designated sub-theme is health in winter. I started out by making a new mind map for the health sub-theme.
Here is the mind map that I developed:
After creating the mind map, I realized that the sub-theme of winter was still very broad. Before I narrowed in more, I wanted to spend more time thinking about people who experience winter. People who experience winter in the most extreme ways may provide unique insights into the topic. Winter is difficult for the average individual, and the difficulties of winter are only magnified with age. Many seniors leave Minnesota for warmer climates in the winter, but that is not possible for everyone. By looking at the senior population and how they view their health in winter, I believe that I can make inferences about the larger population as well.
At this point, I went on to interview people about seniors' health in winter...
First, I spoke with my parent's next door neighbor. This neighbor is in her seventies and lives with her husband. She spends each day watching her grandchildren so she never feels isolated in the winter. I also spoke with her about sickness in wintertime. Her grandchildren got sick on occasion but she never caught anything from them. This neighbor has a hard time walking due to bad knees. She has a hard time getting around normally, and said that things become even more difficult for her during the wintertime. She was not as worried about driving in the winter as she was about walking and slipping on snow and ice. She said that daily tasks such as going to the grocery store and filling up the car with gas were much more difficult for her to accomplish in the wintertime. Because of this, she went out less often and when she went out, she stayed closer to home.
I decided to speak with my aunt next who is a park ranger (my expert for this assignment). She witnesses accidents all winter long and can speak well to these issues. As a park ranger, she was required to go through winter driving training. This training helped her to handle patches of ice and adjust accordingly to avoid accidents. She believes that this kind of training would be especially helpful for seniors who may feel uncomfortable driving in wintertime. By taking this course, seniors would be better able to handle adverse conditions and react in a way that will result in the least amount of physical harm to themselves. Also, my aunt sees the total number of visitors to the parks significantly decrease in the wintertime. In nice weather, seniors frequent the visitor centers on a regular basis. However, in the winter when driving conditions are bad and sidewalks are icy, seniors do not frequent these centers as much. The parks department also puts down a lot of salt in the wintertime to avoid being sued.
Finally, I spoke with a family friend who has a father that is in his 80s. She lives in Minnesota while her father is living in New York. He lives alone but has other family members in the nearby area. She is not concerned about him driving as everything he needs is within walking distance. She knows that he is taking care of himself (eating well, socializing) during the winter but worries about the things that are outside of his control. She worries that he could fall while walking and that there may not be people nearby to help. She is afraid that he could break his hip or suffer from frostbite in a situation like that. Breaking bones is one thing when you are young, but a completely different story when you are older. She trusts that her father will take care of himself but she can't always be sure that the sidewalks are safe for him to walk on.
From my interviews, I noticed some themes emerge. The people that I spoke with expressed concern over seniors' health in winter, but very specific aspects of health. They did not express concern about SAD, flu, or staying warm in winter, but they did express concern about breaking bones. Most aspects of health are within a senior's control, but oftentimes, they cannot control if they fall or not. So, the sub-sub-theme that emerged for me was seniors' desire to keep their body intact during the winter months.
I have also developed some personas based on the interviews I conducted:
PROBLEM STATEMENT: Sue and Stan need a way to worry less about slipping on ice because breaking bones is of real danger to seniors.
Many people express worry about falling in the wintertime. Falling is usually outside of peoples' control, but they can take steps to protect themselves.
PROBLEM STATEMENT: Paula needs a way to get around the city because she cannot drive on her own in the winter.
Seniors want to maintain a certain level of independence, even if they are unable to drive. It becomes even harder to remain independent in the winter when accidents happen more easily and have more severe consequences.
At this point, it is not possible for me to observe seniors and their interaction with ice and snow as there is no snow or ice on the ground yet. Once there is snow and ice, I would like to go to church parking lots and outside grocery stores and watch seniors as they walk around. In the meantime, I have collected additional information on seniors perceptions of falling and products that are already on the market to help them.
According to an article in The New York Times, one-third of all people over the age of 65 fall each year. In addition, 30-50 percent of seniors are afraid to fall. If this is their perception of falling on any given day, I am sure that their fear of falling rises even more in the wintertime. These trends show that there is a need for products and services that aid seniors when it comes to falling. There are a variety of products that are currently on the market. Padded pants that protect the hips during a fall and necklaces that alert others to an emergency are already on the market for seniors. These products may help after a fall, but they do not prevent a fall from happening. Also, as I read reviews for these products on Amazon, many people liked the idea of the product but when in use, the products were bulky and drew unnecessary attention to the user. Seniors want a sense of security, but they do not want everyone to know that they are using these products. I believe that there is a need for products and services that prevent accidents from happening in the first place that are also discreet in design.
It is also difficult for me to experience how seniors feel in wintertime. I am not a senior and there is no snow or ice yet. The snow will come eventually, but I will not age 50 years...However, some smart people at MIT's AgeLab have developed the AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) suit that allows other individuals to see what it is like to be a senior.
This suit makes it difficult to turn your head, walk without restriction, and stand upright. It also impedes vision and balance. All of these features allow an individual to experience what it is like to be a senior, and can be helpful in addressing needs that are specific to seniors. As a younger person, it is easy to forget how hard things must be for an 80-year-old. I don't have access to this age suit but will keep its features in mind as I begin to develop my product.