Designing Impact Weekend: ‘DIY For Elderly’ Workshop

The Designing Impact Program has spawned other activities to disseminate knowledge and understanding about designing for an aging population. One of the interesting activities is the Designing Impact Weekend, held on 18 March 2018. Included in the program is the ‘DIY for Elderly’ workshop led by Team Sintorn7 together with Fabcafe Bangkok. The workshop invited participants to hack a commonly seen plastic chair and turn it into a chair more suitable for the elderly, building on their past experiences to make a unique piece of furniture that accommodates the needs of the elders.

“A plastic chair is commonly available, it can be easily reused and repurposed. 

At the start of the workshop, Sintorn7 shared their experience in joining the program, how their thinking and outlook have shifted towards social impact design, their opportunities to go on field to talk to their users, and design thinking which sheds light on the importance of prototyping and testing before producing their practical public furniture. The workshop was joined by Kalaya Kovidvisith, one of the facilitators, who shared her knowledge of the design thinking process, one of the product development methods.

The design thinking process begins with identifying the problem, coming up with solutions, experimenting, and testing, while taking into account other key elements. Here are the stages of the design think process: discover> define> develop> deliver, using analysis and synthesis to arrive at a good design brief. Then revisit the entire process when finished to enter the design process.

The important part of design thinking is that it is based on real data. This workshop presented a challenge in the form of a plastic chair for participants to come up with a solution through design thinking.

From the design challenge, the workshop progressed to sharing ideas on Post-its. The participants were asked to write in the categories of “challenges for the elderly” (pink), “behavior” (yellow), and “health” (blue). Divided into 3 teams, each chose one idea from each color of the Post-its to use as initial data for their design. The three teams were:

  1. Team: “Pen Nueng” / Product: “Nueng Nai Jai Khun” – their design is built on an idea of a stable chair that does not fall or break easily, comfortable with support for the back and neck, comes with a faint detection system, has a seatbelt, and wheels that can be locked for safety.

  1. Team: “Lub Sabai” / Product: “Kao Ee Ob Oom” – their design is aimed to tackle a challenge of a chair that can be seated for a long time without aching the back, allowing you to sleep in with extra support for the back and head and a footrest.

  1. Team: “la chaise du bonheur (C.B.) / Product: “Kao Ee Hang Kwam Suk” – the team designed accessories to be attached to existing chairs, building on how some elders are attached to their favorite chairs. The design includes a space to store a walking stick, a handrail or a reading table.

After each team assembled the materials on the plastic chair to match their defined ideas, the teams presented their works, which received feedback from other teams, leading to further development of the products. Essentially, the participants gained a better understanding in design thinking. Limitations were considered to guide the design of not only furniture but also other design products to accommodate the aging society in Thailand. It was noted that those who can make a difference are not only designers; people from different fields can bring their expertise and knowledge on the aging society to build the future and a sustainable high living standard.