Q: What problem are you taking on?
A: The problem that I’d like to address is the decline of mental and physical acuity in older adults.
Q: Who are you designing for?
A: I am designing for older adults that live in densely populated cities.
Q: What problem are you attempting to solve?
A: There are many problems that contribute to the decline of mental and physical acuity in older adults. One problem is the sedentary lifestyle led by older generations. This is a result of one’s lack of social support that comes with age.
Q: What do you know about your audience so far, and what questions have you yet to answer?
A: So far, I’ve only done some preliminary research during my internship in Shanghai. Older people in Shanghai tend to participate in group activities, such as dancing, calesthenics, etc. in open spaces, specifically neighborhood parks. Not everyone participates. Based on a few interviews, people don’t participate either because they are not from the neighborhood and don’t know the people there OR they just don’t know the sequence of actions required by such activities. From observation, there is a strong relationship amongst the participants. With the implementation of the one-child policy in China, there is a lack of social support especially after the child moves out. As a result, one-child parents look for ways to maintaining a healthy social life.
Some questions that I still have yet to answer are:
Q: What is the experience you intend and form it might take?
A: My solution will provide a highly interactive experience at the park, both mentally and physically. As the evening approaches, people are returning home from work while others are out socializing with friends. As they walk by the neighborhood park, they hear music in the distance and notice lights pulsating from the ground. With closer inspection, one discovers a dance floor in the park, instructing participants how to dance and move through the aid of LEDs, which are guided by the music.
Q: What are the opportunities for your thesis idea in the marketplace?
A: Video games such as Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution all have the capability of teaching players to play instruments and to dance, albeit to a certain extent. Although wildly successful in the video gaming market, these games address a younger audience, leaving out older, potential gamers. By designing a solution that is larger in scale, independent of screens and video gaming consoles, we are able to address a wider range of users. Besides the park, these dance floor installations (either permanent or portable) can be placed in nursing homes, schools, and other areas where there is potential for social gatherings.
Q: What’s already been done in this field, and how does it relate to your query?
A: There are many interactive dance floors that have already been created and some of them are already out in the market. Demos of such dance floors can be found here, here, and here. These demos show that the technology is there and development of such a dance floor is possible. These demos also demonstrate a one-way, user-to-dance floor interaction, whereas what I’m proposing turns this interaction into a two-way conversation. In addition to the dance floor reacting to one’s actions, it is also guiding and teaching participants the steps to various dance sequences.
Another thing to point out is the limited types of interactions demonstrated in current interactive dance floors. Instead of the floor only reacting to steps, there needs to be a larger interactive vocabulary available for participants. One example of various actions required by users can be seen in Nintendo’s Elite Beat Agents where users can swipe and tapping the screen.
Portability also comes into mind when designing for a versatile solution. After a quick search, there’s a company that specializes in portable dance floors sans light interaction.
Some other relevant research that I’ve done so far were reading through some of Oliver Sacks’ works, specifically Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. In these two books, Sacks goes into detail about several patients that relied on music to live a semi-normal life in spite of mental disabilities such as memory loss.
Why Topic is Relevant/Interesting
Q: Why are you interested in this subject? When did your interest start?
A: I became interested in the social support structure for the elderly when my grandmother moved into a nursing home several years ago. For the next five years, I spent my Sundays visiting my grandmother and during those visits, not all residents within the home were fortunate enough to have such a strong support structure like my grandmother. Also, prior to her entering the home, she was diagnosed with dimentia. Although my family visited her frequently, there were times during the week where she spent her time alone in her room. During these periods, her mental capacity quickly deteriorated.
Q: What do you hope to gain from this experience? How is it relevant to you?
A: I hope to learn more about how we can build and maintain a strong social structure through public interactions. It is relevant to me because I’ve witnessed firsthand how loneliness can quickly destroy someone especially in one’s later years. Also, I’m going to be old one day and I really don’t want to go through what my grandmother went through.
Q: What are you next steps?
A: Next steps include