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Creative methods Research

Activity toolkit for remote user research: One day in the life of…


We developed a creative user research toolkit for remotely investigating the needs of elderly (65+) with regards to physical exercise and digital solutions.

The kit contains a flyer with tips and tricks for being active (also digitally). This contains various forms of (physical) activities and training, digital tips such as an instruction for video calling, and a tutorial for crafting a face mask as an activity to move around more safely. In addition, the kit contains a customized diary ‘One week in the life of …’ with additional activity cards and fitness band. The Digital Life centre designed and composed the kit initially for the BAAT project under the supervision of Dr Marije Kanis with students from the Minor Designing User Research and in collaboration with the Research group Exercise therapy (Berber Nauta).

Berber Nauta and dr Marije Kanis having a rare physical meet-up for discussing the results of the activity toolkit.

The problem

In order to provide tailored personal exercise advice for older adults, it is necessary to weigh up everyone’s needs and potential. There are various groups of elderly people, each with their own needs, preferences, living situation, limitations and motivations. An exercise advice specifically aimed at the older adult in general does not suit all elderly people and every situation. For example, in a recent survey, we noted that older people have started to move differently in these changed times of corona.

In order to be able to offer good advice, an overview is needed of what kind of exercise activities are possible and desirable. And to what extent and how a (creative) digital solution could support this.

Between the stakeholders, we used Miro for a remote co-creative session on a shared white board

We planned co-creative sessions with the different stakeholders and target group to identify needs and solutions together. But now, with the current COVID-19 situation, we had to work in a different way -remotely- and consequently developed a special method: a tookit.

The Activity toolkit with fitness band, custom daily journal, activity cards and booklet with Tips & tricks for engaging in (digital and physical) activities

One week in the life of…

A selected group of people (65+) received a kit consisting of the following parts: a custom-designed diary, a pen, activity cards, a folder with tips and tricks (such as an overview of interesting exercise activities, and video bubble instruction) and a fitness elastic. This kit was sent to elderly participants so to return it at the end of the week. It was deployed in two weekly phases: during the first and second wave of social isolation.

A page from the Tips & Tricks folder with Instructions on how to do video call using Whatsapp

The elderly were asked to use and keep this diary for a week. The days of the week and the date can be entered at the top of the relevant page. Every day there is a standard number of questions that the older person is asked to respond, at the beginning and end of the day, thus as a sort of reflection of the day. It is also the intention that the participant adds activities to the diary during the day.

A page from the journal from the activity tookit

Because it is not possible to estimate the amount of activities done in a day, and one probably does more than the other, we decided to also design and use activity cards. This together with the journal should be a summary of what participants do in daily life. Each time one does an activity, they take out such a card, fill it in, circle the felt emotion and add it to the day in question. The cards already have categories for which they only had to fill in the specific activity.

Why this research method

By having several elderly people fill in a diary / journal, during the week, we found it is possible to still obtain a detailed picture of their daily life from a distance. This method seems to provide a more complete picture of what the target group will do in a day and the context in which the solution will be located.

Picture showing results (photos, drawings and filled in pages) from the activity toolkit

Some of the participants had indicated in a previous on-line survey that they found it difficult to imagine what digital and physical activities can look like and how technology can help to support. The idea is that the activities, tips and tricks in the kit may inspire to come up with creative solutions remotely. Together with students (IOT and caring technology), we are now in the process of improving and redesigning the toolkit as a remote user research method for enhancing well-being.

See also the article at the digital life centre (also available in Dutch)

Our publications

Leuke tips & tricks voor (digitaal) bewegen
Maaike Bommerson, Amy Lith, Marije Kanis & Berber Nauta (2020) Mens in Beweging, Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Activiteiten dagboekje: One week in the life of…
Amy Lith, Maaike Bommerson, Marije Kanis & Berber Nauta (2020) Mens in Beweging , Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Factsheet kenmerken ouderen en (digitaal) bewegen
Marije Kanis & Berber Nauta (2020) Versie 3.1, Mens in Beweging, Hogeschool van Amsterdam