A Game Plan for Aging-Related Conversations

Quarter 3 is well underway and our team, (Laura Galos, Lindsay Josal, and Maryanne Lee) is in the midst of ideation and development. Last week, we downselected from three design ideas to one. We have been referring to this idea as a “communication tool” that helps caregivers and families have necessary but difficult conversations with the elderly around aging-related topics. Currently, the conversation we are working with in particular is one around driving cessation, or limiting of driving as people age.

Our teachers encouraged us to test ideas with potential users this week. Because we initially thought of this communication tool as a website, our plan for testing involved creating wireframes–sketched pictures of screens–to which potential users could react. As we began to visualize what we thought these screens might look like, we realized that we needed to take a step back and think through what this tool really was. We had to consider not just the endpoint for users, but hone in on each step of the communication process. How would it feel, in an ideal case, for users to begin using the tool? How would we like them to feel when they began the conversation? What would it feel like when particular concerns were brought up?


We began by creating a journey map of the ideal conversation. First, we talked about wanting the discussion to feel safe. For an elderly person, we think it’s important that when the conversation arises, they feel like it’s not a trap. For a “caregiver,”–or any family member who takes on that role–”safe” might mean that the situation is non-threatening. We also think they would like to project to the senior that they’re not trying to take their independence from them. Going through this exercise allowed us to generate a journey map, which we used as criteria for iteration.

As we returned to storyboards, our main focus this week was on the points in the journey where users start the conversation and bring up concerns. Our team explored different form factors including web, mobile and physical forms. We then came up with several iterations. By executing and revising these iterations, the soul of the idea began to reveal itself. We found that committing to a particular iteration all the way through helped us make decisions with greater detail. The storyboards we were most excited about take the form of games.


Why games? For many families, it is uncomfortable to bring up difficult topics. In games, devices such as dice or spinners can be used as a buffer. A given player has not asked that an action be taken (or a topic discussed), the action was determined by the roll of the dice. If the game is about difficult topics, no-one has the responsibility of bringing them up, the game may do it by design. We think this may be especially effective for families facing these difficult conversations.

In our research, we found that cards are an approachable and social game that many of our participants played with regularly. So, our initial game ideas began with cards.

Storyboard A:



Storyboard B:


Storyboard C:



In our Saturday studio critique, we discussed many forms the game could take, games that happen over time v. once-and-done games, and the use in games of hypothetical scenarios v. actual user information. Our team will continue to explore the design of our idea and begin testing some of these choices with potential users this week.