Design thinking

Designing for seniors: a piece of cake or…?

Ulrika Ewerman


So how do you design for seniors? At Veryday, we’re often asked this question by clients who’ve identified the huge opportunity the global trend brings to the table. The answer is – as individuals. Currently, there’s an unfortunate tendency to look at large groups of people simply as seniors: silver-haired grannies and grandpas with soft cheeks who don’t know how to handle Snapchat. Is this the way you want to be perceived when you turn 65? Probably not. Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean your individuality stops.

Swedish real estate company Vectura, an organization that thinks differently, recently approached Veryday with an opportunity to work together. Their goal was to develop the best senior living concept in Sweden. With our help, Vectura wanted to find out what future tenants dream about.

During the engagement, we co-created a future senior living concept along with potential tenants. Based on our collaboration, the first senior housing estate is now under construction north of Stockholm – and there are more to come. By including future tenants in developing the overall concept, Vectura is now able to offer a truly relevant and desirable experience based on real needs and aspirations, far from “one size fits all seniors.”

Through our exploratory research and co-creation methods, we identified three key emotional drivers and aspirations:

1. I know I’m getting older but I don’t want to be reminded.

I want to live in a real home, far from an institutional environment. I want a home that can be adapted as my various needs arise. Don’t pack the apartment with devices for disabilities – that will just make me depressed. I might need them later but when I do I’ll ask. When it comes to services, I want flexibility and I want them tailored to my preferences.

2. I want to continue to explore and live my life. I’m a bit older but I’m still me.

I want to live in a house with people of various ages. I don’t want to only live among other seniors. Would I necessarily have anything in common with them just because they’re older? A mixed environment enables me to contribute my life experience and to learn from others. Maybe a digital platform where we could exchange services?

3. I want to be part of a social context.

Being alone scares me. I want to be part of a social context and live in a house where I can interact with others, with room for social and creative activities, and a huge kitchen where I can cook and eat with my neighbours. A green house where we can grow ingredients would also be nice.

These three key aspirations reflect the human need for gaining respect, contributing to life around us, and being part of the social context. So if you want to design for seniors, look beyond stereotypes and see your users and customers as individuals. That’s where you’ll find the inspiration to design and develop products, services, infrastructure and welfare systems that people appreciate – and that make a real difference in their lives.