The Benefits of Involving Older People in the Design Process

  • Britt ÖstlundEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9193)


The more experience we get of involving older people in innovation and design processes, the more we recognize the benefits of having to do with life experience as input to the development of digital products and services. Heterogeneity raises personalization as a key component in design. This paper argues that old people are an asset in innovation processes, which is illustrated by projects conducted in Sweden from 1992 to 2014. The aim is to present how older people contribute to the development and what hinders them. The goal of these projects was to promote participation of older people during the design process but to varying degrees depending on the question. Different degrees of participation and involvement are discussed based on the “participation ladder”, on an idea of Arnstein from 1969 and on conclusions from innovation research.


Life experiences Participative design Older innovators 



The author owe many thanks to Sabina Fabrizi for proof reading the manuscript.


  1. 1.
    Gerontechnology 9th World Conference in Taiwan, vol 13, no. 2 (2014)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Graafmans, J., Taipale, V., Charness, N. (eds.): Gerontechnology. A Sustainable Investment in the Future. IOS Press, Amsterdam (1998)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bangemann, M.: Europé and the global information society. Recommendations to the European Council, European Union. High-Level Group on the Information Society. European Commission, Brussels (1994)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    European Year for active Ageing (2012).
  5. 5.
    WHO: Good health. Add life to years. Global brief for World Health Day 2012 (2012)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    OECD Factbook 2009. Evolution of the population (2009)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Swedish National Board for Health and Welfare: Statistics – Social Welfare (2002)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Szebehely, M. (ed.): Hemhjälp i Norden - illustrationer och reflektioner, [Home help in the Nordic countries - illustrations and reflections]. Studentlitteratur, Lund (2003)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Nilsson, M.: Våra äldre. Om konstruktioner av äldre i offentligheten [Our older. If constructions of older people in public] Linköping Studies in Arts and Science No. 450, Linköpings universitet (2008)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sawchuk, A.K.: From gloom to boom. Age, identity and target marketing. In: Featherstone, M., Wernick, A. (eds.) Images of Aging. Cultural representations of later life, pp. 173–187. Routledge, London (1995)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Peine, A., Rollwagen, I., Neven, L.: The rise of the innosumer. Rethinking older persons as users of technology. Accepted for Publication in JN for Technological Forecasting and Social Change (2013)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Eriksson, B.G.: Studying ageing: experiences, description, variation, prediction and explanation. Gothenburg Studies in Sociology, no. 41. University of Gothenburg, Göteborg (2010)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Östlund, B.: Design paradigmes and misunderstood technology. The case of older users. In: Jeager, B. (ed.) Young Technologies in Old Hands – An International View on Senior Citizen’s Utilization of ICT. DJØF Publishing, Copenhagen (2005)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Oudshoorn, N., Pinch, T. (eds.): How Users Matter. The Co-construction of Users and Technology. MIT Press, Cambridge (2005)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Clarke, A.E., Olesen, V.L.: Revisioning Women, Health and Healing: Feminist Cultural and Technoscience Perspectives. Routledge, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Friedan, B.: The Fountain of Age. Simon and Schuster, New York (1993)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Melander Wikman, A.: Definitioner och modeller för e-hälsa. In: Gard, G., Melander Wikman, A. (red.) E-hälsainnovationer, Metoder, Interventioner och Perspektiv, ss. 17–31. Studentlitteratur AB, Lund (2012)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Von Hippel, E.: The Sources of Innovation. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1988)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Von Hippel, E.: Democratizing Innovation. MIT Press, Cambridge (2005)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Majumder, A., Shrivastava, N.: Know your personalization: learning topic level personalization in online services (Senast uppdaterad 2012-12-13) (2012). Accessed 25 June 2013
  21. 21.
    Raboy, M., et al.: The dilemma of social demand: shaping media policy in new civic contexts’. Gazette 65, 4–5 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Wyatt, S.: Non-users also matter: the construction of users and non-users of the internet. In: Oudshoorn, N., Pinch, T. (eds.) How Users Matter: The Co-construction of Users and Technology, pp. 67–79. MIT Press, Cambridge (2003)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E., Morely, D.: Information and communication technologies and the moral economy of the household. In: Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E. (eds.) Consuming Technologies. Media and Information in Domestic Spaces. Routledge, London (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Arnstein, S.: A ladder of citizen participation. Am. Inst. Plan. J. 35(4), 216–224 (1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Östlund, B., Lindén, K.: Turning old people’s experiences into innovations: ippi, as the example of mobile services and TV viewing. Gerontechnology 10(2), 103–109 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Von Hippel, E.: Horizontal innovation networks – by and for users. Ind. Corp. Change 16(2), 293–315 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Jonsson, O.: Furniture for later life. Design based on older people’s experiences of furniture in three housing forms. Dissertation, Division of Industrial Design, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University, Lund (2013)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Malone, E., Dellinger, B.A.: Letter to the editor. Healthc. Des. 11(1), 11 (2011)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Porter, M.E.: The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Free Press, USA (1998)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Essén, A., Östlund, B.: Laggards as innovators? old users as designers of new services and service systems. Issue Int. J. Des. 5(3), 89–98 (2011)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Saetnan, A., Oudshoorn, N., Kirejczyk, M. (eds.): Bodies of Technology: Womens Involvement with Reproductive Medicine. Ohio State University Press, Columbus (2000)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations