Helping seniors aging in place

Social networking service to keep seniors social and active


Ruoxiao Sun (UX DESIGNER)


UX Research,
UX & UI Design


20 weeks

The Challenge

Design the service prevent retired elders get depression in the lapse of the bond.

The outcome

Social networking service helps seniors maintain healthy mental health by helping them not lose connections with loved ones, communities, hobbies and interests.

Feature 1

Meet & Connect

Seniors can find events and groups based on their interests near their location.

Feature 2

Get Rewards

The point system rewards seniors for being active and involved. They can change their points with coupons which they can use in their daily activities.

Feature 3

Share the interests

Caregivers can track the seniors activities by checking their achievements badges. It will help enhancing the communication between caregivers and their loved ones.

Define a Problem

Seniors feel lonely and isolated after their retirement

Currently, retired seniors who want to live out their retirement in the comfort of their own homes need to grow and maintain relationships with loved ones, friends, and community to feel connected. When these bonds are lost, they can feel lonely and isolated, which can significantly impact their health and well-being. Depression is a major contributor to premature death amongst seniors.

Lapse of family support
Sandwich generation
Lose the connection

Early Hypothesis

Can connecting seniors to their family and community mitigate senior depression?

The research showed that the lapse of social bonds causes depression among seniors. So, my team wondered if reducing the gap between older adults and their caregivers can be a solution for the problem of senior depression.

Discover the insights

After interviewing 16 people, my team figured out there should be a non-therapeutic way to mitigate senior depression. The main reason for this insight was because older adults do not want to burden their children’s lives. Also, the senior center manager we spoke to confessed that when seniors have some problems both physically and mentally, they do not come out from their comfort zone and instead become more isolated. Through observation and anecdotal evidence, my team saw an opportunity in the importance of community and networking in keeping seniors active.

“Seniors will not tell you they are isolated and lonely. Depression is a major problem among seniors. Keeping active is very important.”

Liliana, Senior facility manager

Possible solution

My team started to think about “How might we” questions to propose possible solutions. We employed some concept exploration strategies and considered the best options for our users. We chose the social network web service and tracking system for seniors and their caregivers. There are four reasons why we moved forward to these concepts.

1. Seniors do not want to use cutting edge technologies that are a burden to learn.
2. Seniors lose interest very fast when they don’t have someone to share them with.
3. Seniors want to engage with other people while they are staying at home on the weekend or holidays to avoid loneliness.  
4. Caregivers want to make sure their loved ones are safe and active from a distance.

Who is going to use this service?

Seniors who prefer outdoor activities (Outdoorsy
Seek events and groups based on recreational preferences
Short distance caregivers
Caregivers who live close to their loved ones struggle to take care of them
Long distance caregivers
Caregivers who live a long distance from their loved ones.

Testing and revised with key insights.

Due to the limitations of the Covid-19 situation, my team could not access test subjects for their safety. We started recruiting seniors and caregivers who could use the computers to conduct usability testing virtually.  Through the testing we found out some insights to consider for the seniors.

Challenge 1

Seniors want to use the service independently.

Most seniors who are willing to use this service live by themselves and prefer to be autonomous rather than have to frequently ask questions to other people when trying to use the service. To make them feel empowered using this service, we used ‘ghost text’ and ‘floating box text’ to guide them and give more information about the function to understand the process more easily.

Challenge 2

It is hard to remember the event once they get around to posting it.

The first attempt of reviewing an event they attended was almost the same as Facebook because we thought most seniors were familiar with using Facebook. However, most testers said they are making posts a few days after the events so they wanted something to help jog their memory. Therefore, my team decided to put the reminder feature for when users are willing to write and share their experience with other people.

Challenge 3

Privacy issue vs Safety matter

Most seniors who willing to use this service lives by themselves or hard to ask questions frequently to other people to use the service. To make them feel empower using this service, we used ‘ghost text’ and ‘floating box’ to give more information about the function to understand more easily.

Challenge 4

Emphasis on activities to enhance the communication.

In the previous flow, we focused on the activities report, which shows the number of participating events. However, some caregivers thought this number would make them feel ok to check their status without any communication. My team thought this report could reduce the conversation with their parents. We changed the page emphasis from statistical info to the kinds of social types of activities they are making in order to share their interests and communicate more than just how well they are doing.


Implement the physical space with digital product

My team did not only consider the mobile application and web page for seniors and caregivers. We thought seniors need a human touch for using the service, so we considered a partnership with event holders and senior centers to access the service more efficiently. We created the ecosystem to see the connection between service to service and tried to combine digital and physical space.

Visual design guide

For the visual, we set three keywords to set the Happy Hour service visual theme : Vacation, Cozy and Relax. We used green as our primary color to give a relaxed feeling for the seniors.  For the font we used Campton because it’s easy to read and want to give the sense of human warmth because Campton font is known for warm feeling.

Take away

It was a great opportunity to think about the whole digital ecosystem to mitigate senior depression by creating social interactions in the physical and digital space to provide better access for the user. However, because of the Covid-19 situation, we could not do an actual workshop with the senior center to prove the concept as we had already planned. As a next step, we want to validate our concept both in digital and physical space to get a deep level of insight from the seniors and their caregivers.