NSCAD University is helping older adults use technology to live a life full of belonging, dignity and choice through a community collaboration project with Northwood, Atlantic Canada’s largest not-for-profit continuing care organization.
Northwood invited fourth-year design students from NSCAD to work with older adults to evaluate their use of SMART technology. Meeting directly with Northwood residents, NSCAD students learned how technology already impacts their lives, and how it could help them even more moving forward. The students helped identify access barriers and opportunities to personalize the design and function of technology for older adults in need of assistance.
“This is an ambitious and rewarding project – it’s something that really engaged our design students, and educated them on the challenges faced by older adults,” said May Chung, associate professor, design division, NSCAD University. “We want to give older adults an increased voice in the design of products that are meant to assist them. In order to do that, we have to build relationships across generations and cultures. That’s what our design students enjoyed most about this project – sitting and talking with the people living at Northwood, learning from their experiences and gaining an increased appreciation for what they need to stay connected with their community.”
As part of the project, NSCAD students will also develop visual artifacts that represent themes identified during their conversations with Northwood residents.
“In essence, these are pieces of art that will express what this experience meant to participants and showcase the importance of human-centred technology design,” said Dr. Christopher Kaltenbach, chair, design division, NSCAD University. “Using visual art to capture the spirit of this project is an important step in supporting engagement, personal growth, and reflection for everyone who took part. It’s a rewarding way to document the journey, while also inspiring all of us toward a collective vision.”
The NSCAD students will prepare reports, oral presentations and final concepts to explain how to improve designs – information that will be utilized in a public awareness campaign about the importance of tailoring assistance technology to the individuals who use it. The presentations will take place on Thursday, December 12 at Northwood’s Halifax location.
To learn more about NSCAD’s design division, visit https://tagon4.ca/study-at-nscad/divisions-and-areas/design/.
A key partner on this project was NS GovLab, the Nova Scotia government’s social innovation lab that focuses on population aging. Established in 2018, NS GovLab works to more deeply understand the aging population in Nova Scotia, build skills and capacity for social innovation, construct and test prototypes to support our aging population and create a network of engaged social innovators. Three NS GovLab fellows, and two staff members, have been engaged with NSCAD students during this project, acting as a resource to students throughout their research.