About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.

How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?

Essay response by Janet Fulper, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

According to Herron School of Art and Design, “Visual Communication Design is identifying and solving problems using creativity and critical thinking” (Herron). The identification and solution process includes research. This past semester my classmates and I were taught the importance of people-centered (participatory) research methods. This enables the designer to create artifacts or experiences that are more valuable to the user/stakeholder because they were involved in the process.

Without including the people who use a product or experience a service in the design process, the outcome can be just a pretty package. It is important to create connections that lead to more meaningful design. “Eventually, everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” Charles Eames (Eames)

“Customers expect nothing less than great products — regardless of technology, platform, or context. Businesses need to ensure they can create and sustain products that deliver on larger strategic objectives” (Frog).

A growing customer base within the United States is the 50 and over population; the count is nearing 100 million. By 2030, this demographic will increase by more than 30% (American Jewish). We are living longer and with more health complications. As we age, most people want to remain where they are comfortable and in familiar surroundings. Today many in-home health care services offer an attempt to preserve this lifestyle. However, it may be confusing and difficult to navigate. Incorporating people-centered design (part of Visual Communication Design) can improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services and help find solutions that are easy to navigate and clear.

People-centered design incorporates the insight and participation of all stakeholders. Stakeholders for in-home health care include the customer, their families, care givers and medical professionals, to name a few. They are instrumental in all parts of the process from problem identification to conceptualization to product deliverables (service or experiences). This type of design helps all involved to empathize with the consumer, identify real opportunities and create sustainable solutions.

In a recent collaborative design project, my team and I tackled the seemingly obscurity of a public park. Our perception was that the public was unaware of the park and its purpose in our community. Through our research, which included park-goers, potential park-goers, surrounding businesses and the landlord, we discovered our assumptions were wrong. We wanted to turn the park into a public athletic field and activity space. Had we gone with our designer expertise and not included all the stakeholders, we would have missed out on valuable information and better opportunities.

This is true for any design including in-home health care. As a middle-aged woman with living and aging parents and grandmother, I am keenly aware of the upcoming challenges with which we may be faced. It would be an honor to help find great solutions for in-home health care. These solutions not only take into consideration the older population it also involves them in the process

About Janet

Janet is pursuing a bachelor of fine arts degree in Visual Communication Design from IUPUI.

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