Participatory prototyping of services was used in the development of home care services towards preventing displacement and loneliness of elderly persons. Together with the elderly users of the home care service and the personnel of the home care crew we designed and implemented Palvelutupa (Service Cottage). Elders took part in communal actions once a week. These actions varied from recreational activities to lectures on daily issues such as nutrition or footwear advices. In addition to the social activities, a health check took place there.
Participants took part in the development of the concept for this service and also in the participatory prototyping that was run in the city premises during 8 days along 2 months.
The main elements of this service are transportation to the meeting place, taking part in structured activities, getting health care information and check, eating and spending free-time in a small group. Furthermore, participants had the change to influence in the future development of a service that could be implemented for a large amount of elders in the area. The combination of social activities with health related offerings is what makes this service distinctive. In addition, this case has the special characteristic that the person1 that has the initiative towards the creation of this service was within the organization, instead of being a designer working as a external consultant for the city. We believed in the sustainability of the endeavor because the designer instigating this initiative is part of the crew that could make this service real once the decision is made.
Though elder participants were informed about the temporary time spam for the prototype still the fact that the prototype seams like a real service and the shared wish (within participants and designers) to continue with it formed a promise of continuity. At the moment when we are waiting the decision from authorities to make this service real for a larger group, elders involved in the project call us in the search of company and comfort for their daily challenges. They call us claiming for the continuity of the service.
As designers we succeed in creating an empathic relationship with our end-users through these participatory prototypes, however we did not plan strategically the involvement of decision makers in the design process. People in the role of deciding the future of the project should be involved in the design process. There is a need for awareness and empathy not only for designing new services but also for fastening the speed of transfer the prototype into the implementation phase.