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Three Takeaways From URBANAGE's Partner Meeting

The URBANAGE Consortium came together in Athens last week to work together on our digital solutions to help better engage older residents and create more age-friendly cities.

Updates on progress from our pilot cities will be shared in the coming weeks. In the meantime here's a light hearted look at three key takeaways that stood out (at least to the author here) from the meeting.

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover: UX is often at play

A number of consortium members giggled when we first saw the first participatory data collection device from Helsinki. The big black box with its push buttons was more akin to a 1980’s tv games console than the smart devices we are used to using every day. Then we heard about how difficult it is for older adults wearing gloves in the extreme cold of Helsinki’s winters to use any kind of touchscreen device. The black box was specifically designed by a user experience (UX) expert to be robust, to be used in hardy conditions and to be simple for any older adult to use. A lesson was quickly learned… we are not the target demographic so we have to be careful to design for what the older adults want rather than what we think they want.

2. Technology by itself is not that exciting: Humanise technology with personas

Reviewing architecture and app service screens is hard to follow and assess without putting yourself in the shoes of the target user, and no developer ever enjoys presenting to a room full of glassy eyes. Leveraging the personas developed during the initial pilot co-creation workshops, as demonstrated by Santander at the meeting, helps the viewer better understand the purpose of specific technology features and be able to provide useful feedback. Reviewing a dashboard as Lola, an 82 year old pensioner in good health, is different to that of Laura a busy city administrator in her 30’s. Continuing to leverage personas is a practice URBANAGE plans to adopt for its forthcoming video series, but note these won’t replace actual end-user co-creation and validation in the real world.

3. Sustainability is complex: Its an ongoing process that must be dynamic and iterative

The old saying ‘a camel is a racehorse built by committee’ could have been written about many European projects in the past which focused on trying to create one perfect product or service. To mitigate the risk of creating a solution that overlooks broader societal context URBANAGE has tried to adopt a more holistic view of sustainability that is not about a single product or service but is rather an interplay of the various systems, stakeholders and outputs that make up the project. In this way the URBANAGE solutions can be more adaptive and resilient allowing for flexibility and adaptation to changing conditions and needs. However, the traditional pull to focus just on platform exploitation is strong, and so more interactive workshops which bring multiple perspectives and expertise of the partners into the modelling of sustainability pathways is needed.

Finally, one (rather flippant) question URBANAGE didn't manage to answer with consensus after the project dinner is - can Tortellini, even with the addition of mushrooms, really ever be called an authentic Greek dish? I think our Italian Coordinator may have the casting vote here!

For more information on URBANAGE aims and results visit and subscribe for newsletter updates.


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