Silvia Vergani, Director of Design Research for IDEO and co-lead of IDEO Health and Wellness practice, presented at the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit March 28, 2018 in San Francisco in an excellent featured analyst session called: Play, Sensuality and Fear: Designing Human Centered Solutions for the Aging Market. She was joined by Jim Murphy of UnitedHealthcare moderating, and fellow panelists Teresa Ann Keenan, Director, 50+ Research for AARP and Jennifer Draklellis, Senior Director of Innovation and Business Development, UnitedHealthcare. You should have been there! But you can still take advantage of a newly published, publicly available design toolkit.
Silvia Vergani and Caricia Catalani led the IDEO team that worked in close collaboration with the Catalyst partners (AARP, UnitedHealthcare, Pfizer and Medstar) to design two toolkits called Design on Aging, one focused on Independent Living and one focused on Connected Living for entrepreneurs that are innovating in the aging space. This is a valuable gift worth taking a look at.
Silvia had this to say about their important design toolkit:
“Thinking about death and planning for it is scarier for many of us, and many people think there is nothing scarier than dying. But by interviewing older adults we learned that physical and cognitive decline are even more terrifying than death. We feel a sense of control when thinking about our legacy and the way we’d like to die, and death feels certain and final, but we are terrified of the idea of what would happen if we fall, if we end up on wheelchair, and we procrastinate those conversations as much as possible. How might we design products and services that help us address critical decisions early on, and help us put together plans that will keep us feeling empowered and in control in the future?”
“One of the many untapped design opportunities for the older adults at risk of isolation that we interviewed is around amplifying the senses that they have left. As we lose certain physical abilities or experience decline of some of our five senses, we want to feel as alive as possible by focusing on and celebrating those senses that we have left. From enjoying physical intimacy to listening to music to painting to cooking and eating, the older adults we interviewed value activities that stimulate their senses, that keep them in touch with their physical self and that, sometimes, they can easily do at home.”
Design Research Immersion and Passion
Silvia Vergani has a Masters in Organizational Behavior from Harvard and I wanted to learn more about her work in in design research.
Silvia shared, “I realized I had a passion for design research when I was working for an MIT startup company in Boston, MA more than ten years ago. We were designing a fun monitoring and social networking device for dog owners and their dogs. The company was called SNiF Labs. SNiF stands for Social Networking in Fur. While I never had a dog, I naturally gravitated towards embedding myself in the community of dog owners in Boston, observing and interviewing them in the places where they got together from Yorkshire playdates at the park to Chihuahua birthday parties at pet boutiques. I enjoyed doing all things we do as IDEO researchers before I was familiar with IDEO’s process, such as observing people in context, learning from extreme users, do “empathetic” immersions, or cross-validating learnings between qualitative and quantitative research.”
Immersion is such an important part of any research. Even if you are not officially a market or design researcher, everyone should get out where their current and potential customers are. Good retailers regularly walk stores. For myself: Watching my first focus group in Japan with an interpreter was a tipping point for me. I decided I must become completely fluent in Japanese so that I could hear the consumer directly. (I was a director with Japan Market Research Bureau – then part of J Walter Thompson – for six years).
I currently live in Hawaii and worked for 22 years in Japan, so I was pleased to see that Silvia’s presentation highlighted both of these places.
Market Research and Japan – the Test Market for Aging Technology
Japan is a fascinating country in many ways. There is exciting work being done in design research and science based market research there.
IDEO has brought their excellent design research skills to Tokyo. They have also formed a VC partnership called D4V there.
IPSOS is a global market research and consulting company, headquartered in Paris. I recently wrote about Bill Hall, President of IPSOS Healthcare Japan and a thought leader on aging with decades of experience with market research in Japan.
Mary Furlong and Associates Boomer Business and Boomer Venture Summits
The annual What’s Next Boomer Business Summit is produced by Mary Furlong and Associates. Her next event is the annual Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit – Design, Innovation and Investment Opportunities in the Longevity Marketplace.
Update: Silvia Vergani is now Senior Research Director at Flexport in San Francisco.