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Creating Experience through Design Thinking

Posted January 28, 2016 in Research

Be the Voice was the theme for this year’s Leading Age conference and c.c. hodgson architectural group embraced this platform to conduct an informal research study, asking attendees to identify the most important elements in creating the resident’s experience at their communities.

The Creating Experience research study dovetailed from a recent Harvard Business Review cover feature on Design Thinking and citing the importance of empathy in “The Evolution of Design Thinking.” While empathic design is rooted in sensitivity and understanding of the residents’ and caregivers’ experiences, it is also evolving into a differentiating business strategy.

Our focus as architects is on creating experiences through design – identifying the experiences and different levels of user engagement – that are central to the design intent of a space. This became the focus of the Creating Experience research study.

As authors of several wellness studies, including part of the research team to conduct the first-ever study 10 years ago on how senior living communities were embracing wellness, the Creating Experience study naturally included the six dimensions of whole-person wellness and how they impact user experiences.

The first question attendees were asked was “Which of the six dimensions of wellness – emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, vocational – is the most important in creating the resident’s experience at your community?” Social wellness was cited as the most important by 38.5 percent with emotional wellness ranked second at 21.8 percent. The emphasis on social wellness is not surprising considering that opportunities for socialization can significantly improve residents' quality of life and prevent isolation.

The second questions was “What is the most important issue in designing the resident experience?” Of the three choices – seeing, hearing, and way-finding – both seeing and wayfinding received almost an equal response of more than 40 percent. One attendee commented that it is difficult to discern between the two since you need seeing for way-finding. Regardless of whether it’s seeing or ease in navigating, the research points out how the design and visual aesthetic of the space is critically important in engaging users.

The final question was more open-needed, asking respondents, “What is your favorite public space in your community?” The results overwhelmingly support the importance of the social dimension with the lounge and dining rooms being the favorite spaces. Other notable spaces drawing in other dimensions of wellness – physical, spiritual, and emotional – include the café/bistro, outdoor dining, sports bar, gardens and outdoor spaces, and the wellness center.

The Creating Experience survey tool was programmed by Brooks Adams Research.

Wellness as a Design Principle+

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