Seniors are vital members of our society. They offer a wealth of experience and social capital that is critical for our society to function and to develop further. Seniors play a significant role in the development of our youth. There are indications that regular intergenerational relations are beneficial to the development of empathy and emotional intelligence.
For the first time in history the number of seniors in Canada outnumber the number of children. This is a continuing trend in western civilizations associated with increasing longevity and a result of a steadily improving standard of living, better health care, and a robust social systems earlier in life. At the same time our social structures are changing and adapting to changes in every aspect of our lives:
- The way we communicate (Internet, mobile, Snapchat, WeChat, etc.)
- How we live (loss of multi-generational households)
- How we move around (getting from A to B has never been easier)
- Where we study and work (overseas, long commutes, relocation).
Often that means that our aging population is left behind and we are suffering from a division between our older population and the younger ones.
Social isolation among seniors is a serious social problem. In 2014, the National Seniors Council of Canada conducted a study which investigated some of the causes of social isolation and its effect on individuals and our society. Social isolation impacts seniors’ physical and mental health, self-esteem, and ultimately their contribution to society. For our communities this represents a loss of social cohesion and the tremendous value seniors add, while creating a higher social cost on our society.
For this design challenge, our objective is to develop innovations that can help reduce the social isolation of seniors. In their report, the National Seniors Council (NSC) identifies key themes that offer opportunities for innovation and address the problem of social isolation. Some of these themes are:
- Intergenerational Relations
- Life Transitions
- Promoting Healthy Aging
- Access to Information, Services, and Programs
- Outreach, Gatekeeper Programs, and Community Registries
- Age-Friendly Environments
- Mental Health
- Cultural Barriers
- LGBT Seniors
Innovations considered in this design challenge should address one or more of the themes identified by the NSC’s report and have the key attributes of innovations:
- Provide value to stakeholders
- Offer an empathetic experience
- Exhibit a strong technological alignment
As a guidance, the NSC report also identifies a number of risk factors may lead to social isolation of seniors and that must be considered in developing innovative solutions. One in particular, as it relates to this design challenge, is “challenges relating to technology”. This suggests that seniors may have different expectations when using technology which must be given appropriate attention to when considering technological solutions to the design challenge.
————- Requirement —————
Graduate students in the class are expected to submit an additional assignment for evaluation. The assignment takes shape of a paper in which students will concisely and thoroughly develop and advance an argument that examines how a topic or theory discussed in the academic literature is experienced in practice. All of the literature pertains to topics that fall under the broad umbrella of designing, developing and implementing technology innovation. You will be expected to demonstrate a robust understanding of theory/topic as it is discussed in the literature and then provide your own analysis as to how the theory is experienced in practice through the lens of your design challenge experience. You are required to submit the proposed topic of your graduate paper before the final paper is due. The topic is submitted in form of a short abstract-style (max. 150 words) summary of the paper’s intended subject and anticipated findings.
1. (optional) Review your design challenge reflection
2. Identify a topic related to the design challenge (maybe from your reflection) that
promises to be discussed in academic literature. This topic can be related to
computer science, engineering, social science, biology or other disciplines as long
as you can demonstrate a relation to the subject of the design challenge.
3. Now formulate an objective or hypothesis about the topic. I.e. what aspect of the topic
do you want to research.
4. Write this down as your abstract-style Grad Paper Topic summary.
5. Conduct the research given the objective you stated by reviewing existing research and
demonstrate a robust understanding.
6. Identify how this research is applied or can be applied in practice relating to the
7. Write the grad paper covering points 5 and 6.
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