Leigh Hayden is a Project Coordinator at Sheridan College’s Centre for Elder Research. The Centre for Elder Research is one of Sheridan’s six Research and Incubation Centres and conducts leading edge research in the field of aging by examining innovative ways to enhance the well-being of older adults and the environments that support them. Leigh is a medical anthropologist who obtained her doctorate from McMaster University. She is interested in how culture shapes aging and caregiving. She has considerable experience working in academic hospitals specializing in Knowledge Translation – applying research knowledge to improve people’s lives.
How design methods can help address food security needs of older adults during COVID-19
Leigh Hayden, Sheridan College, Canada
Prior to the pandemic, Food for Life rescued fresh food from local sources and delivered it to older adults in the region by setting up a “market” in low-income buildings for seniors. To accommodate social distancing regulations, Food for Life switched to contactless delivery, creating individual packages to be delivered to each individual apartment. However, research showed that demands for food supports were changing. Adjustments needed to be made to address the evolving needs of clients and improve the contactless delivery system.
To address this problem, we conducted a series of design workshops, following a double diamond design process to properly discover and define the problem, and ideate and develop adjustments. Our goals were to use empathy throughout the process, use guided creativity to address the problem and to analyze decisions from multiple perspectives. To ensure that many perspectives were considered, and biases were minimized, the workshops used activities that allowed for many participants including researchers, designers, and service providers to share ideas and critiques. We left time between sessions for participants to add and iterate on activities between workshops to minimize groupthink and used collaborative tools so that sharing ideas was seamless. We also used prompts and guided activities to inspire creativity and allow co-development of the solutions.
Our design phase resulted in several adjustments including: modifications to the package, the inclusion of educational materials and community wellness resources, outreach opportunities with community members, and systemic changes to improve existing food packages. Our solutions focused on addressing some key goals such as clarifying and reframing what food rescue is, creating delight in peoples’ lives, ensuring that users had access to needed resources during the pandemic and connecting users to the community to reduce the effects of social isolation. We were able to collaborate with additional community resources to create gifts, letters and cards for each person to receive something from the community in their packages.
We found that the design process allowed for creative solutions to modify the package, support recipients, educate recipients about food rescue while connecting older adults with the wider community to create delight and connection.