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Med 2 0. 2013 Oct 8;2(2):e12. doi: 10.2196/med20.2729. eCollection 2013 Jul-Dec.

Participatory Design With Seniors: Design of Future Services and Iterative Refinements of Interactive eHealth Services for Old Citizens.

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Division of Visual Information and Interaction Department of Information Technology Uppsala University Uppsala Sweden.
SICS Swedish ICT SICS Stockholm Sweden.



There is an increasing social isolation among the elderly today. This will be an even larger issue in the future with growing numbers of elderly and less resources, for example, in terms of economy and staff. Loneliness and social isolation can, however, be addressed in several ways using different interactive eHealth services.


This case study investigated novel eHealth services for the elderly, and their usage of a social interactive device designed especially for them.


In this work, we used an innovative mobile communication device connected to the television (TV), which worked as a remotely controlled large interactive screen. The device was tested by 8 volunteers who visited a senior center. They were between 65 and 80 years of age and lived in their own homes. Throughout the 1.5 year-long project, 7 design workshops were held with the seniors and the staff at the center. During these workshops, demands and preferences regarding existing and new services were gathered. At the end of the project the participants' experience of the device and of the services was elaborated in 3 workshops to get ideas for improved or new meaningful services. During the data analyses and development process, what seniors thought would be useful in relation to what was feasible was prioritized by the development company.


Regarding daily usage, the seniors reported that they mainly used the service for receiving information from the senior center and for communication with other participants in the group or with younger relatives. They also read information about events at the senior center and they liked to perform a weekly sent out workout exercise. Further, they played games such as Memory and Sudoku using the device. The service development focused on three categories of services: cognitive activities, social activities, and physical activities. A cognitive activity service that would be meaningful to develop was a game for practicing working memory. In the social activities category, the seniors wanted different quizzes and multi-player games. For physical activities, the seniors desired more workout exercises and suggestions for guided walking routes. A new category, "information and news", was suggested since they lacked services like senior-customized global and local news.


This study showed the importance of input from a group of seniors when designing new services for elderly citizens. Besides input to interactive eHealth service development for seniors, this study showed the importance of a social context around such work. The seniors were very engaged throughout the project and workshops were frequently visited and the seniors became friends. The high amount of input from the seniors could be explained in terms of social inclusion; they belonged to a group and each member was considered important for the work. The friendly workshop atmosphere facilitated new ideas and redesign of the services.


Internet; community networks; community-based participatory research; elderly users; interdisciplinary communication; professional-patient relations; seniors; social inclusion; systems analysis; television

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