Critique appreciated - calling system for Nursing Homes

Hi all,

I presented this for my final for Design + Aging studio, it was about a five week project. We had a shorter critique and I was hoping for a little more feedback. This is my first “consumer electronics” project and it is an area that I am interested in.

Any feedback / suggestions would be very much appreciated! Apologies for the large images (is BBCode resizing allowed on this board?), the content is also on: Bell by Robbie Lillquist at

Well it’s an awesome project, specially for 5 weeks’ duration.

The problem definition process is fairly good, again for 5 weeks only, but probably needs more research. The happy face slide: some of your statements are trending to not true anymore, i.e. no typing, never owned a computer. Also, some of the statements should be referenced, we here aren’t going to go off and check your sources, but it’s important to show you have them. Excellent ideation boards, and problem simplification to only personal communication. Overall well thought out and developed, solution and form. You have enough here to continue into a thesis project.

No brand development.
No materials and colours development.
No implication of design for manufacturing.
No suggestion of cost.
No input from users.

Thanks Pier, this is very helpful! These are great suggestions on where to go next.

I agree that the speaking/observation could look more backed up. Some of the quotes are from a single user (like the “typing” one, and I wish I asked him more about it as I didn’t quite understand) while others are more seen from repeated varied sources and generalized.

Visually looks a little intimidating. Does this really need to be a standalone product? I wouldn’t call my mother tech savvy, but she has an iPhone and is turning 60. In the next 5 years the number of seniors with access to smartphones, tablets, and laptops is going to be increasing.

Why not have a small indicator light that talks to a smartphone app and integrates with Skype on a tablet or flat panel TV?

Also, who makes this? Where would it be sold? Most seniors don’t want “senior” products, so how could the market for this expand? College students to parents? Students to professors? Couples in long distance relationships? Parents with young children who frequently travel. A lot of my peers are traveling all of the time, almost every week, and they Skype with their kids daily.

Thanks Yo, those are good things to consider! I chose a standalone product because I am aiming to help elders with dementia who are unfortunately beyond even the iPhone and other phones that allow for simple dialing. I was interested earlier on in a better cellphone for seniors (not necessarily with dementia) and it is still something that IMO has a lot of potential, since the “senior” phones are really just phones with big gummy buttons. It will be interesting to see how people in their 50s and 60s now with smartphones will react to new technology in 10-20 years.

I totally hear what you are saying about aversion to “senior” products and for good reason – a lot of them suck! A theme of our class has been universal design (i.e. design that not exclusive to seniors and stigmatizing to them). I tried to take a different spin on it by benefiting both parent and child in the system – making calling easier / less confusing for the parent and less hassle for the child (less accidental calls), but I did not think about other applications or spinoffs, thanks for the suggestion.

Understood. I think for seniors with foment is anything new is potentially very confusing. Have you seen the movie “Robot and Frank”?

I didn’t mention in my last post, the project is well presented and well executed. Nice work. One technical criticism, the concept sketches are more of a personal exploration nature. There should be an intermediary step between those loose sketches and the CAD render where you are exploring several concepts as refined and viable directions. They should be presented in a way that is clear enough for a client or senior exec could read them.

I’d like to see a little more definition to your market. Dementia patients in nursing homes is a bit vague. There is a clinical dementia rating that could be used to determine your ideal consumer. There are probably other means to measure as well.

When does a smart phone/email become too complicated. When it becomes too complicated, what are the clinical indicators. And when is the point when the patient is incapable of any meaningful communication. Dementia is a degenerative disease, it is not steady state. How long is your solution valid?

I dislike solutions that don’t solve a problem and I am not convinced there is a problem.

Overall, the project looks like a good start given the short duration. The process is nicely documented, and at the very least should be a good point to jump off from when in your portfolio. My first quick scan though was very positive.

Though, I too have more questions.

If this is based on wifi, why not a more robust system tied into a computer?

Why is the onus on the parent to call? Who programs their time into the system and how (need a computer someplace or caregiver support)?

If this is for dementia, I would think even more reason for it not to be parent based. How will they remember to call, if they don’t even know what time it is. Likewise, I would think esp. for dementia patients, it would help to have a screen to see who they are talking to and help remind them of the connection. Even in person (I’ve seen it), dementia patients often have no idea who they are speaking with. Sound from a black box would be very confusing.

I’d also like to see some more process in formal development.

On the children side, how does this integrate into the technology they have? Can you monitor your parent through an app?

Why not something more portable? Often patients will move rooms, go to common areas, etc? Might be nice to have even more personal aspect to it if you can take it with you.


Someone you may want to contact.

Ageism, discrimination based on age, is widespread but one of the least addressed and challenged prejudices in our community. The problem is that this prejudice and stereotyping shows up in the products and environments that are designed for our older population. So how do designers respond to this growing demographic when they may themselves harbor ageist attitudes? How do designers start to design products and environments that don’t perpetuate ageism or reinforce an unhealthy model of our aging population? For designers, understanding their own ageist attitudes is essential before responding to the needs of an aging population. The session will discuss strategies and design activities that involve methods to get designers to understand the aging process, ageism, and how ageism can influence the design of products.

IDSA 2011 International Conference

Glen Hougan
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
See> > Hougan, Glen | Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University | Industrial Designers Society of America - IDSA

Ref. >

Seems to me any charges of ageism can be avoided if the OP addresses the needs of dementia patients and not “old” patients. It is a clinical, justifiable difference.

But my point is that the OP needs to define where on the spectrum would the product be appropriate. Probably neither at the beginning nor the end stages of dementia, and how long would a proposed product be viable. Is there a market?

Thank you all again for the advice. I have been in the process of moving and apologize for not responding lately.

I agree – I am thinking that this would be for middle stage, but I will need to define that better, i.e. which diseases and the real stages, such as those at Alzheimer's Stages - Early, Middle, Late Dementia Symptoms |

Thanks Lmo for the link. Ageism is exactly what I want to avoid. I have had problems in the past not defining my target audience enough (I still need to better) but like iab says, maybe the needs of those with dementia is a better way to go about it.

Thanks R, these are great questions. Deciding on who should call was a later decision and some similar advice was given in the crit and I agree that having the child call would be less confusing for the parent. My reasoning for having the parent call was to be the active one initiating the call at the time that the tone/light went off, but if it is more confusing to use, then that does kill the point.

I should have communicated better that it is the child who programs the parent’s time schedule in and that they can do so either on the website or app – it is there in the slides but a picture of a monitor and smartphone could show it a lot better than boring text.

Some of the reasoning behind going against a portable option was that the resident’s room would be the most private and least distracting place. One nursing home I visited was pretty loud, with lots of aids running around, but then again another one was intentionally made quiet and peaceful. I will have to think about the screen aspect – I think this is a tradeoff between the benefit of being reminded and more personal vs. a form of remote communication that could be simpler, less distracting, and more familiar (telephone) to the user. A couple of my classmates made projects related to video-communication for older adults (they focused on elders without dementia and independent) and they found that people of all ages do generally do pretty well with Skype.

This is a good point … I did see the movie and enjoyed it! But perhaps I didn’t learn everything from it. Regarding the sketches, I made the “refinement” page in photoshop before going into CAD, but do you mean exploring more separate concepts (they are all variations on one single concept now).