Journal:

Embracing Elder-Centric Design: Strategies for Transforming Healthcare

Embracing Elder-Centric Design hero image, an elderly patient with a look of happiness and satisfaction with the healthcare she has received

The healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving, driven by a global shift towards an aging population. As people live longer and reach their sixties and beyond, healthcare systems face unprecedented challenges. The World Health Organization has highlighted the critical importance of developing innovative solutions to address the unique healthcare needs of older individuals. This global issue requires healthcare providers, policymakers and governments worldwide to adopt elder-centric approaches to meet the evolving demands of aging societies.

 

Executive Summary

The healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving due to the global increase in the aging population. This shift requires healthcare systems to adopt elder-centric approaches to meet the unique needs of older individuals. Our collaboration with HomeTeam Medical Services in Canada has highlighted the benefits of Elder-Centric Design, which emphasizes personalized and holistic care for seniors.

Key insights include:

  • Rising Healthcare Costs: With Canadian healthcare costs projected to increase by $93 billion over the next decade, seniors, though less than one-fifth of the population, consume nearly half of all healthcare spending.
  • Global Relevance: Similar demographic shifts and pressures on healthcare systems are occurring worldwide, necessitating universally applicable solutions.
  • Elder-Centric Design Principles:
    • Empathy-driven design
    • Accessibility and usability
    • Safety and comfort
    • Personalization and flexibility
    • Holistic and integrated solutions

The success of HomeTeam Medical Services illustrates the impact of human-centered design, leading to better health outcomes and more resonant brands. This approach offers a blueprint for healthcare providers and policymakers to ensure a healthier future for the global aging population.

Embracing Elder-Centric Design hero image, an elderly patient and a doctor illustration getting empathetic care

The future of healthcare = Embracing elder-centric solutions

Our recent collaboration with HomeTeam Medical Services in Canada has provided valuable insights into how healthcare can be reimagined to serve the elderly better. Like any project that needs to balance a delicate balance of human-centric outcomes, organisational success/sustainability and meeting the needs of real people, we always start with an empathy-driven starting point involving conversations, workshops and deep research to ensure the solutions we put forward are being conceptualised based on a real understanding of the unique needs of the audience. By focusing on the delicate balance required to meet the needs of an aging population while striving for universally effective healthcare outcomes, we explored the power of Elder-Centric Design. Drawing on the expertise of Storyfolk’s founders, Cass Mackenzie and Sarah Gross, we highlight why elder-centric design is crucial for the future of global healthcare.

 

The challenge

The global healthcare system is under significant strain due to its aging population. Today, we will use Canada as an example due to our previous work with HomeTeam Medical Services. With Canadian healthcare costs projected to rise by $93 billion over the next decade, seniors, though representing less than one-fifth of the population, consume nearly half of all healthcare spending. Consider these statistics:

  • Canada’s senior population is expected to grow by 68% over the next 20 years.
  • Canada’s population growth is among the world’s fastest, with a 3.2% increase, adding 1.25 million people in the past year.
  • Seniors will represent 21.0% of the Canadian population in the next 10 years, up from 16.9%.

 

Illustration of an elderly woman looking satisfied with her health, statistic infographics are showing the implications of ageing population in Canada

However, these trends are not unique to Canada. Countries worldwide are experiencing similar demographic shifts, and the pressure on healthcare systems is a global issue.

HomeTeam Medical: Case study

HomeTeam Medical Services recognised these challenges and embarked on a transformative journey by embracing Elder-Centric Design. This approach centres on personalised and holistic care in familiar environments for seniors. Through empathy and understanding, HomeTeam co-designed medical and human benefits of care for older people.

The power of elder-centric design

Elder-centric design is so important for tackling pressing issues like this; its about designing real outcomes for the people we are aiming to serve with guidelines from a range of stakeholders who can add value to the process. Elder-centric design addresses the needs of an aging demographic by putting ourselves in their shoes to ensure the design outcomes align with the health outcomes, such as promoting independence, accessibility, safety, and well-being. By incorporating this approach, healthcare providers can drive innovation, humanise healthcare, and create a more age-friendly world (a more inclusive society for all abilities). This model is not only beneficial for Canada but also offers a blueprint for other countries facing similar challenges.

Branded panel for HomeTeam Medical: Empathetic Branding & Strategy for Canadian Aged Healthcare showing an elderly man reading

Tangible outcomes

The results speak for themselves. HomeTeam Medical Services, with its Elder-Centric Design approach, has become a symbol of human-centred design principles within Canada’s healthcare landscape. It’s a project we feel proud to work with medical professionals like Dr. Ted Rosenberg who are leading by example.

Cass Mackenzie, Design Director/Partner at Storyfolk, captures HomeTeam’s impact:

“HomeTeam’s success is a testament to the power of prioritising empathy, understanding, and personalised care for the elderly within universally effective design principles. This leads to more resonant brands and better health outcomes. This is just the beginning for the brand, and we can’t wait to watch the brand lead by example.”

Branded panel for HomeTeam Medical: Empathetic Branding & Strategy for Canadian Aged Healthcare showing a woman painting

Using universal design in healthcare

As the world grapples with an increasingly aging population, healthcare providers and policymakers must adopt human-centred design models to ensure a brighter and healthier future for our global aging population. Here are five key insights gleaned from our collaboration with HomeTeam Medical Services, applicable to all human services and healthcare providers:

  1. Empathy-driven design: Begin by deeply understanding users’ needs through direct engagement and research. (Co-design, workshops and research)
  2. Accessibility and usability: Create environments and products that are easy for everyone to use, regardless of age or ability.
  3. Safety and comfort: Prioritise safety and comfort to enhance the user experience and minimise risks. Lead with empathy for greater user adoption.
  4. Personalisation and flexibility: Allow for customisation to meet individual preferences and needs. Not all needs are the same, so designing for people requires some flexibility for customisation. 
  5. Holistic and integrated Solutions: Design solutions that address the entirety of a person’s well-being, integrating physical, mental, and social aspects. Application: For the elderly, this means comprehending their physical, emotional, and social needs. For broader healthcare, it ensures inclusivity, ensuring all patients feel understood and valued.

Tangible Outcomes

The results speak for themselves. HomeTeam Medical Services, with its Elder-Centric Design approach, has become a hallmark of human-centred design principles within Canada’s healthcare landscape. Cass Mackenzie, Design Director/Partner at Storyfolk, encapsulates HomeTeam’s impact: “HomeTeam’s success is a testament to the power of prioritising empathy, understanding, and personalised care for the elderly within universally effective design principles. This leads to more resonant brands and better health outcomes. This is just the beginning for the brand, and we can’t wait to watch the brand lead by example.” As the world faces an increasingly ageing population, the imperative for healthcare providers and policymakers is clear. Embrace models rooted in human-centred design principles to secure a bright and healthy future for our global ageing population.

Ted Rosenberg, CEO of HomeTeam Medical Services, commented on the partnership with Storyfolk:

“Storyfolk were excellent listeners, very thoughtful and insightful, timely with responses and all deliverables were on schedule. They were very client-centred and responsive to any adaptations and adjustments that better fit our business requirements. They were always patient and affable, ensuring they captured our needs despite working across continents. We asked them to develop a website, which was not part of the initial contract. They accommodated us despite the short notice and worked hard to meet our timelines, delivering an excellent job. The measurable outcomes from the project demonstrate success, with people and the healthcare system in Victoria (Canada) recognising the HomeTeam Medical Services (HTMS) brand and requesting HTMS over individual physicians or healthcare workers. Moreover, new patients are coming through the web portal, alongside positive feedback about the quality of information on the website from prospective clients and healthcare providers.”

 

Read the HomeTeam Medical Services case study, here.

Read the World Health Organisation (WHO) insight on aging populations, here.

 

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