Friends of the Elderly
As America’s largest population enters retirement, it is faced with a major issue. An isolated or lonely elder is at increased risk of succumbing to health complications. It is imperative that society help identify these individuals and put into place systems that will maintain these elders’ quality of life.
Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly wanted to increase the number of clients they are servicing by 100 within 1 year. They identified a new neighborhood for expansion, Longfellow, and began an initiative to grow their user base. Little Brothers mission is to end elder loneliness and isolation. Entering this new neighborhood presented a great challenge. How do you raise awareness of this program for individuals who are suffering from isolation?
My team and I approached this project from a design strategist perspective. We examined the current techniques employed by Little Brothers in hopes to identify new areas of opportunity or areas for improvement. A deep dive into the organizations history, event coordination, and marketing efforts revealed an opportunity to shift the lens.
Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly
Tools & Methods
Spark of Inspiration
The inability to reach the individuals affected proved a great obstacle. But what if we were able to activate the community around the elders? Our team hypothesized that a grassroots campaign involving local professionals and community partners would offer the most opportunity to identify isolated and lonely elders. To reach the elders, we would need to cast a large net of awareness.
We looked to their volunteer network to see if they could help identify at risk elders and found that Little Brothers focuses primarily on visiting volunteers. A visiting volunteer is an individual who goes to an elder’s house for one-on-one personal interaction. Little Brothers asks for a minimum one year commitment of four to six hours per month. It also requires an orientation and training session as well as a background check. These steps ensure that elders are getting the best experience and can feel certain about the individuals coming into their homes.
During our deep dive, we identified that the holiday dinners sponsored by Little Brothers result in high community engagement but are difficult for Little Brothers to plan and execute. We suggested that these types of events need not be as big or for only special occasions. With numerous smaller events, Little Brothers could expand their network.
Our team created a design strategy map with specific touch points to increase awareness and engagement. Pamphlets for neighborhood partners. Email campaigns for corporate sponsors to activate a volunteer base. Handwritten cards for a more meaningful connection. As the net grew, so did the opportunity to reach at risk individuals.
See Full Strategy Map
Unfortunately, there is often a stigma attached to being elderly or lonely. As our net grows, it is imperative that anyone attempting to connect with the elder population approaches the issue with respect. It is important that any approach empower and not belittle elders. We suggested framing messaging around the goal of saving elders’ stories and passing experiences to younger generations. By asking for elders help, the organization would be giving meaning to joining beyond just ending isolation. It would offer a means for elders to feel as though they were giving back to their community.
As a comprehensive effort, our team made a short video of the methods to be applied. The video outlines strategies and the design thinking behind the prototyped touch points. We also created a prototype package that further explained the goals and benefits of each touchpoint See the video below.
Presenting a new approach
To assist Little Brothers in implementation of this strategy I created an implementation roadmap that outlined the general strategy as well as key goal analysis points to identify if the system was meeting the organizations goals. These analyses were based off of the Google HEART framework.
It takes a village, is an old phrase often used to describe the necessity of community for rearing a child. But what about when that child reaches old age? Our society has little in place to identify and address elder isolation and loneliness. By raising awareness and activating the community around elders, we are reducing the risk of individuals being forgotten. By providing those elders with a goal to share their stories and experiences, we are improving their quality of life and meaning. By bringing these community members and elders together to share stories, we can begin to minimize the issues of isolation and loneliness.