That's an intriguing question at the heart of a recent project called "Co-designing with Older People." Alive Ventures founder, designer, and social entrepreneur John Zapolski created the project in collaboration with human-centered design innovator Ayse Birsel, with backing from non-profit The SCAN Foundation - which funds projects to improve the lives of older adults. Ayse Birsel, principal at Birsel + Seck Design Studio, is author of the book, Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future. The project was a year-long study engaging with 250+ seniors (65 and older) across the country in 15 workshops. It was done to gain insight into what older people want and to encourage designers and businesses to "co-design" with older people.
Some of the learnings that came out of the study are worthy of consideration. For example, the study found that rather than being defined by worries, older people are generally "optimistic, interesting, resilient, dynamic, curious and courageous." They do what they love and enjoy things they had no time for when they were younger. Particularly interesting is the fact that seniors "are craving new kinds of experiences: Experiences that are designed for them and by them, rather than someone else's ideas of what older people should be doing."
There was also a sobering part of the study: "Aging isn't inherently a problem. The challenge is that social constructs, institutions and services have failed to support all of us as we age. In fact, they've failed the people who are living the longest."
I thought some of the quotes from seniors who participated in the study were indicative of what we all want and the way we look at life. Here is just a sampling:
I want to connect, teach and share the art of living with people of all ages. I have a lifetime of experience to share.
I want to get things done with joy and feel good about how I spend my time, without feeling guilty about productivity.
I want to find work that I enjoy, that I can search and evaluate based on things that matter to me -- how much I want to travel for it, the type of work, the social environment, what I get in return -- connections, money, intellectual stimulation or a combination.
I find big tasks daunting. Tasks like downsizing and moving to a new smaller place, or writing my family history book. I'd like help with breaking these into smaller steps, manage my time and energy while feeling accomplished.
I am tired of feeling invisible. I want to be visible physically with color and great design and the courage to deploy them.
What I'm most proud of at this point in my life is my ability to never give up on the goal I wish to achieve...no matter how long it takes.
A 61-page report shares many insights, ideas and outcomes from the study. It makes for fascinating reading. You can download a PDF of the report by clicking the link below.
HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.