Service Design for Elderly People
The Design & Co-Innovation Center (DCC) at SAP has a mission: making design a priority and changing the outside perception of SAP. Matthias Langholz, Strategic Design Consultant at the DCC, felt the need to use his design skills for something with a higher social value. This is why, together with Karen Detken, Strategic Design Consultant, he approached the Office for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens in Heidelberg to start a special project.
I have to admit it was a mystery to me which project SAP could start working on together with us. These are two different worlds. I was therefore all the more surprised that we found a common language when it came to reflecting on the serious and wide-ranging social problems.– Birgit Rittinghaus, head of specialized field, Office for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens
Together they designed a service that brings together generations and helps elderly people over the age of 85 to rediscover their sense of value in society.
Defining the Scope
“In our profession we were not used to Design Thinking; yet we think about people, how they may tick, and how best to empathize with them. We may use different vocabulary but we soon realized the design methodology was already part of our way of thinking“, says Birgit Rittinghaus. Following a workshop at the SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg where they tried to reach a common understanding, they began to explore the needs of their target group by interviewing elderly people and identified three challenges that elderly people face: changes in external world, the interaction with others, and inner joy. Bärbel Fabig, head of department, Office for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens explains: ”When elderly people are still mobile, they can continue to do everything. But we realized a long time ago that possibilities often cease when people have limited physical mobility or suffer from dementia, and cannot leave their home. Then social contact starts to drop off.“ With these insights it was time for the innovation to begin. Karen recalls: “We started a project completely from scratch, we had to integrate all the stakeholders, and expand our design knowledge outside of the norm. We learned that there are more pieces to the puzzle that you have to take care of and choreograph each step in a harmonic way.”
Filling the Social Gap: Creating an Interpersonal Service for Elderly People
In the end the outcomes were so diverse that it was difficult for us to translate them into action. It was therefore very important to break the results and our thoughts down into manageable chunks in a way that they can be realized on a small scale.– Bärbel Fabig
The Office for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens adapted the concept for the service in an internal workshop to meet their needs and resources using the working methods provided by the DCC. “This was the greatest achievement we could reach. By applying Design Thinking on their own, the City of Heidelberg got to learn the value of our processes. This demonstrates that the method can be applied to projects outside of the IT environment in any other organization”, says Matthias Langholz. The adapted service concept focuses on visits to the homes of the elderly and has been highly successful right from the start. The City of Heidelberg recruits volunteers with social ambitions and offers training to prepare them for their voluntary commitment. The volunteers are supposed to built up a long-term social relationship with the elderly by visiting them at home. Based on personal interests profiles of volunteers and elderly will be created to allow interest based matching of them in the future. Bärbel Fabig explains: „Our project prevents elderly people who cannot make use of our well established social structures from living in isolation, which is something we have been working on for a few years but were unable to implement due to other priorities. Now that we are able to actually realize our objective is a dream coming true.”
We could only work with one concrete approach. Processes are long, there are a lot of people involved, and we had a thousand different ideas. But we were missing the decisive thrust in the right direction. However, with SAP we could focus and put our thoughts into action. Having ideas is good, but realizing them is much better.– Birgit Rittinghaus, head of specialized field, Office for Social Affairs and Senior Citizens