S-Geek is a social service empowering the voice of the elderly against the non-ageing-friendly services through participatory design.

Changxin Zheng
Deepu James
Supported by Accessibility Research Alliance and VIVO
Designing for the ageing by the ageing
S-Geek is a social enterprise aimed at empowering the elderly to speak out, raise social awareness, and promote the companies to make products and services more inclusive, thus becoming a step towards social equity.
A day of Granny Liu: Challenges and "Excuse me" ..

This project is to support the senior citizens who encounter the challenges of digital exclusion. Let's meet Granny Liu, a lady we met in Shenzhen city, moving from the countryside to raise a grandchild. Her life in Shenzhen is very challenging because of digital exclusion. At 8 in the morning, she arrives at the hospital, frustrated to find that expert appointments have run out online. At 10, it rains, and she waits for 20 minutes before managing to stop an empty taxi because most of the cars were booked online. After her afternoon nap, she goes to the community centre and her new friends are discussing buying products on PinDuoDuo because it is much cheaper than buying from the supermarket. She wants to join in but doesn’t know how to. After her dinner, she reviews photos of family gatherings and struggles to put them into a beautiful template and digital album with music in it. That’s her very challenging day.

Why digital exclusion makes her life so hard

For today's China, the definition of "lifestyle" has entirely changed. The last time I used cash or a credit card was two years ago; I don't need a menu in the restaurant, because there will a QR code to order and pay. As an inevitable result of the rapid development of Internet technology, superior resources are gathered on the Internet. Thus, embracing technology is the original intention of the elderly living in China now, because they want better, more convenient and cheaper products and services.Ageing itself is not a problem. The problem is that the world is not ready for ageing. Because the voice of the elderly is too weak, society, enterprises and the government have not paid enough attention to this issue. Service providers have little understanding of what they need and how to design services that suit them.

The vision of S-Geek

6 workshops with 72 senior citizens and 9 experts from governments and corporates brought out fruitful voices, and we came to a conclusion that it is a truly systemic problem, that the key and the only way is to let the world get prepared for adapting to a senior friendly mindset. According to the social movement theory, we are at a stage where we have to have to ripen the conditions and let the public become aware of this issue. So here comes S-Geek, a four-stage social enterprise, spreading layer by layer like a water wave, from individuals to enterprises to the government, all of which are moving towards an ageing society. We aim to be the bridge of different stakeholders and deliver empowerment as a service to let the world design for the ageing by the ageing. S-Geek will be a 2-year initiative, so for this year of 2021, we will focus on the stages of empowerment and awareness.

Empowerment as a service

S-Geek services are the result of a collaborative and iterative process, to develop strategies to empower the seniors to become silver geeks who possess the knowledge, attitude and power to share their opinions to non-aging-friendly services. Phase One looks at how to access. We initiate a set of tools and co-creation processes to co-design the fit version of mobile lectures for the senior residents with the community workers. This approach has proven to be impactful in three communities. This is how we identify and access S-Geeks, and introduce them into an S-Geek community. Phase Two is to make the voices of the elderly be heard through social media. We have S-Geek Review, a user-centric review service that allows seniors to comment on different services by themselves, showing the real scenario of their use of the service. The first S-Geek Review video is produced by 4 Grannies in Lijiaqiao Community and published by the end of May.

The future of S-Geek

S-Geek will be a two-year inititative, continued look at the approaches to have a direct impact toward the corporates and government next year by Jiaqi Wang and I. This idea was born several years ago when we made our determination to be change agents in tackling the issue of the world moving too fast to care about the elderly. Through this practice, we believe that by empowering S-Geek to have a direct and positive impact in the world, we all become one step forward towards an equitable future. We hope that no matter how the world develops, there will always be a place for them to live happily and comfortably. This S-Geek service is for my parents, for your parents, and even for the future ourselves, to have a happier and more comfortable later life.

special thanks

S-Geek is a joint effort. Special thanks to Granny Yao from Lijiaqiao Community, Hangzhou; Huaqian Community, Hangzhou; Mrs Lan Chen from Assessbility Research Alliance, thanks for all your support and kindness alongside the project.

students involved on the project

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