Case Study • Roots

Connecting the Disconnected


In November 2020, Austin Design Week (ADW) hosted their fourth annual Design-a-thon. Before the event, our team was randomly assembled and had 3 hours to ideate and present a response to the given prompt. Of the ten proposed, our idea was selected as one of the top five to compete. For this project, I was involved with almost every part of the design process. I heavily researched the effects of loneliness amongst the elderly, surveyed nurses and caregivers, and lead the design of our application and presentation.

The Prompt
How might we leverage design to find common ground in a virtual society.

Our Challenge
In response to the global pandemic, nursing homes, which once promised social outlets and care for the elderly, have shut their doors to visitors. Without routine contact from their loved ones, this response has increased loneliness and it's side effects amongst their residents.

The Outcome
To reinvigorate relationships between families and the elderly in nursing homes we created Roots. A habit-forming mobile application that combats the effects of loneliness on the elderly by encouraging loved ones to keep in constant contact with their family members living in nursing homes.
5-day Design-a-thon, Nov 2020
Veronica Ibe, Dan Kossoy, Kadeem Morrison, Anil Pattni
Scope of Project
Concept Design, User Research, User Experience Design, User Interface Design, Presentation

Understanding the Problem

To better understand the problem in which our community faced, my team and I researched the long term effects of loneliness among elderly and how COVID-19 is effecting Texas residents today.

One of our key finds was that loneliness increases a persons chance of developing dementia by 40%. The good new is, loneliness is a modifiable factor that can be intervened.

Defining our Personas

Our goal was to help elderly suffering from loneliness and combat it's side effects. To help us define our target audience, we surveyed 17 caregivers and nurses who work with the elderly directly. From our survey, we learned keeping in contact with loved ones was the strongest weapon against loneliness. This led us to create Danielle and Lori. A mother-daughter duo to represent our ideal user’s profile, needs, and wants.

The Dilemma

In the current scenario, Danielle begins to feel lonely and her health starts to deteriorate soon after. It's not until her nurse notices these changes does she contact Danielle's daughter, Lori, to encourage her to communicate with her mother. This is a reactive cycle, waiting for there to be a problem before intervening.

How might we ...
help the elderly feel connected to their family at all times?

Picking a Primary User

At this stage of the process, we knew we wanted to make an application to enhance the communication between our two users. Our initial idea was to create an app for Danielle that allowed her to communicate her loneliness to her daughter. But, we found the lack of tech-savviness amongst the elderly too great of a challenge to overcome. We also realized that while this did remove one step in the process, it was still reactive and left the responsibility of connecting in Danielle’s hands. So we pivoted.

Building an app for Lori empowers her to initiate this contact, effectively creating a proactive system that looks to prevent elderly loneliness in the first place.
Feature Prioritization.

The Final Prototype

The resulting high-fidelity prototype showcases all our research and refinements over the 5-day challenge. Resulting in a delightful, encouraging, and inspiring habit forming application.

Roots, is a a mobile application to help nurture disconnected relationships through simple reminders.

Feel free to try our our final prototype:
Video walk through coming soon.
Onboarding the user

When Lori opens the application she inputs her and her mother’s information. Then she is able to set up reminders that are most convenient for her busy life.

Once she has completed the onboarding process, Lori receives her 1st achievements badge. Though our apps goal is to relieve Danielle’s loneliness we want to encourage Lori to stay consistent in her efforts by giving her instant gratification.
Forming a good habit

A good habit is formed when someone can see their process. So, we created a timeline page for Lori to view how often she has reached out to her mom, her collection of achievements, and what items she has shared in the past.
Inspiring prompts

Overtime, Lori may run out of ideas of her own. To inspire her, we showcase prompts such as past memories and conversation suggestions on the homescreen to eliviate those efforts.

Bringing our Product to Life

If we were to bring this product to life, we would ideally run more user tests, validate design decisions and make sure we are really addressing our users’ needs. We would then contact local nursing homes in Austin that could help source beta participants and reach out to organizations that might support us with funding and implementation.

Following success in user happiness, adoption and retention we would plan to expand our audience and create a second UI for the elderly in need. Loneliness may be a severe detriment in elderly but it is universal across all ages.

Results & Reflections

Though we did not win this competition my team gained so much from this Design-a-thon. It was amazing to see how five complete strangers could really flex their talents and work so well together to create such an intriguing concept. I think if I were to do this again, I would make sure we defined roles and discussed strengths before diving into the project. I believe the early stages and final decisions would have been made a lot faster if we had set these roles.

But, all in all, I would be happy to work with this team again in a heart beat.
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