Posted on

Ljura – Promoting health for the elderly

  • 1. Model of the old park. Closed areas that are not well lit increase the feeling of insecurity.

The client, Hälsans nya verktyg (“New tools for health”) was an organization that wanted to find new ways to promote health and well-being for people in Östergötland (a region of Sweden). Their primary target group was elderly people, who in Sweden have a tendency to not be so active, neither physically nor socially. In fact, the Swedish Red Cross defines loneliness as an endemic disease in Sweden. The client was looking for new concepts that would increase the health and well-being of their target groups. I worked in a team with two other designers, as part of my master’s program at the University of Linköping.


For this exploratory conceptual work we performed design research in a neighborhood called Ljura (pronounced “your-ah”), in the town Norrköping in Sweden. Our approach included:

  • Performing group interviews with the primary target group.
    We performed two group interviews, one on the theme of “next of kin to people in home care” and one on the theme of “living in Ljura”. These were a great way for us to identify problems to look into more closely.
  • Having informal interviews with random people in Ljura.
    We spent a couple of days in the neighborhood, observing people and talking to them. Sometimes we would show a map of the area and ask them to point out places they like and places they don’t like. We handed out postcards with our own address and a printed question about how it is to live in Ljura.
  • Organizing a quiz walk for the primary target group.
    We found a community of elderly people that had a weekly quiz walk and saw the opportunity build on this event as a way to get input from a large amount of people (figure 2). We designed an extra set of quiz questions to add to their weekly quiz, and distributed it to the group.
  • Creatively generating design ideas inspired from the design research.
    We generated a large amount of ideas on the theme of promoting health and well-being for elderly people. We prototyped some of the ideas, where I was in charge of the following two.
  • Creating a model of a new park.
    During our research, we found that one of the main problems for people living in Ljura was that the park in the center of the neighborhood was not well maintained (figure 1). It was dark in many areas so a lot of the elderly people were afraid to go there, and there wasn’t really much for anyone to do in the park. Addressing these issues, we designed a new park that we visualized with a physical model (figure 3-5).
  • Prototyping eating tools for cold weather.
    Another finding from the research was that the park was especially empty during winter. As our goal was to make the park livelier we wanted to find a way to attract people to the location even in the winter. In general, Swedes are used to dressing warm so they can stay outside in -20°C (-4°F) weather. Despite this there is no flourishing outdoors eating community during the winter. Our idea was to find new tools that enabled people to eat outside while wearing their thick winter gloves. With this point in mind, we prototyped and tested a few different tools with users (figure 6).

Personal learnings

This was one of my first projects doing both design research and prototyping. It was great to feel inspired to generate an almost endless amount of ideas from our research. I also got the taste of creativity as we were able to experiment with new methods for research (e.g. the quiz walk) and also design environments (the park) and products (the eating tools). I really enjoyed working outside the digital realm.