Co-Designing with Older Adults

“When you get older, it doesn’t mean you feel old. We did 15 workshops over the past year with older adults. We found that ordinary people are not ordinary at all. Their contributions were creative and profound.”

Ayse Birsel
Birsel + Seck

Human-Centered Design

The current understanding of aging and the narrative around it must change from an emphasis on loss and decline to a focus on fulfilling experiences. We believe the best way to do this is through a design approach.

This project embraces a human-centered, co-design practice developed to better understand the wants and needs of older people by welcoming them into the design process. We want to learn directly from older adults while empowering participants and supporting them in reimagining possibilities and opportunities for fulfillment at this time in their lives.

The SCAN Foundation, with Birsel + Seck, developed and conducted a series of national sessions with men and women ages 65 and older. Our goal was to understand the wants and needs of older Americans who live in diverse communities from large metropolitan areas to rural towns, and with a range of backgrounds and outlooks on life. This yearlong activity enabled us to learn from older adults, and for them to learn from each other.

Co-Design Experience

The Co-Designing with Older Adults sessions engaged diverse older adults in 15 interactive workshops held all over the country. We gained deep understanding of what love, vitality, work, and friendship meant to them, how these elements have evolved over the course of their lives, and how older people might re imagine and re-invent their lives in these categories.

The sessions had a distinct, intentional, replicable design—creating a welcoming, creative, and safe environment that helped participants share their authentic experiences and observations. Each time, we iterated the experience design, process, and content used in order to develop a repeatable process.

The atmosphere we created supported participants’ working together, and led us to new ideas about what older people want. In addition to supporting our research, the sessions helped participants make new connections with each other.

Read the full report.

Facilitate a Session

You don’t need to be a designer or have a creative background to successfully facilitate a workshop. Anyone interested in the topic of aging and learning with people age 65 and older can lead a Co-Designing with Older Adults session.

We welcome you to this rewarding experience.

Access the toolkit.