Defining Modern Aging

Feb 10 2017

While many were out on holiday in late January, nine students remained on campus to hammer out a multifunctional prototype app that seeks to improve the wellbeing of the local elderly.

The challenge was initiated by Associate Professor of Practice of Business and Arts Eliot Gattegno in his J-term course, The Design Sprint: Modern Aging and the Future of Health in China. In three weeks, students were required to delve into Shanghai’s growing elderly population and assess the lack of connection to quality healthcare services, using research and design sprint methodology developed at Google Ventures.

Partnering with Access Health, a non-profit healthcare consulting agency,  students gained empathy through an experience of simulated senility--their sight blurred and senses numbed through equipment accessed from nursing homes and senior life centers. Biologist and entrepreneur William Haseltine and former director of Human Genome Project Trevor Hawkins, were also invited to share their perspectives.

“This course offers students an opportunity to have a global impact on aging populations while simultaneously immersing them in the history and culture of Shanghai and the Chinese mainland,” said Professor Gattegno.

After two weeks of preliminary research and field study, Gattegno’s undergraduates brainstormed, designed and developed the “Health Front” prototype, which they then tested over five sleepless days.

“We mapped, sketched, and selected our options, rapidly iterating them until the product was a working, testable, and tasteful prototype,” said Kacper Krasowiak, a finance and business junior at NYU Shanghai.

The final version of “Health Front” that was presented included two modes: activity and assistance. In the “activity” mode, the elderly can search for, healthy activities in their neighborhood, receive directions to them, contact organizers or share events with their friends through WeChat.

In the “assistance” mode, users receive information about their current health status. They can also search for the nearest healthcare providers. Across the top of the screen, there is an emergency button that connects them to the closest emergency room.

“It has become apparent that many people, regardless of age, would like to improve the quality of their life, be it adding years to their life, or life to their years,” said Krasowiak.

The group maintained that specific improvements of the App would be further developed in the future.