Ellay - mobility in the moment

Bringing the community closer to the life of the elderly




University: Umeå Institute of Design

Duration: 10 weeks, spring 2018

Team: Selvi Olgac, Yijia Tao & Shibshankar Sahoo

Collaboration partner: Rise Interactive, Umeå Municipality & Ultra Bus Service


Umeå, as a city in northern Sweden, is expanding at a rapid rate and faces numerous sustainability, social and environmental challenges. The focus of this project has been mobility justice in a gendered landscape. The project concerns accessibility and visibility regarding mobility and different public transport services in Umeå. Through a participatory design process and by using interventions we exposed the injustices and power structures that we found in the mobility system of the city. The challenge was not to only to look into the public transportation system, but also to find the underlying social and gendered norms to identify the injustices.


Ellay is a digital platform that brings the community around the elderly closer to them, by eliciting curiosity in social interaction. By showing a glimpse of your own life, you can trigger someone else's curiosity, which offers the possibility for the people around to be a part of those moments. The platform facilitates relationships between the elderly and the community by sharing their stories, bringing people into their lives, and bridging the generation gap, which can eventually contribute to a long-term social sustainability.



How can we empower elderlys' mobility through connecting neighborhood, by eliciting curiosity in interaction?


SENDER (The elderly)

Create and share a moment

The elderly can show a glimpse of their own life through a short video clip together with their voice. With just one touch the elderly can create and share a moment to connect with people around them. They can for example express where they would like to go or things they would like to do. Through the recorded moments elderly can share their stories and bring people into their lives.

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 RECEIVER (The community)

Join and be a part of the moment

A notification will show the community that an elderly is sharing a moment. By just pressing join people around the elderly can connect with them. The person who wants to join the moment will give the elderly a phone call, confirming that he or she will come. Hearing each others voices before meeting will hopefully establish a relationship between them and elicit the curiosity.


The participatory design process

During this project we used participation, engagement, provocation and intervention to explore and design new ways of interacting and of sharing power in the society today.



Ethnographic field research

When starting this project we went out in the streets of Umeå using the snowball method, meeting and talking to people, generating contacts and starting to pull threads, initially without any specific agenda. As this was still in an early stage of the project, we felt that mobility could be “anything” for “anyone”, depending on whom you were asking or observing. Since we did not have a specific user group in the beginning of the project and the brief was very open for interpretation, we saw the value in just meeting any person and see where this could take us further.

Bringing people’s stories to life

We did both interviews and observations with the intention to understand people’s lifestyles, daily movements and challenges in relation to Umeå, trying to identify mobility injustices in the city. Along with this we also mapped out people’s paths and looked into how they were transporting themselves around in Umeå through simple mock-ups. We also used the photo diary technique, asking people to record how a normal day looks like by sharing texts, pictures and video clips with us online.


Focus on the elderly

Through the snowball method we came in contact with elderly people (above 85 years old) living in Umeå. By interviewing and spending time with the elderly we discovered and addressed imbalances and injustices among them in relation to mobility access. As soon as we entered an elderly person’s life, there were more hidden obstacles. Mobility was not just about catching the right bus, knowing the time table or how to get from A to B.


How do the elderly approach mobility today?

Special mobility services are n general available, but often not accessible and sometimes even invisible to many of the elderly citizens. This apparent information gap can lead to disappointment, frustration, skepticism and a feeling of injustice among them. Crucial in this information gap is the expectation and the norm that everybody should master a smartphone or have access to a computer. This however is still premature to many of today’s generation of elderly people.


“I travel with the bus without a destination.”

Although many of the elderly feel unsafe outside their home, they love to take the bus. But they are scared walking from their front door to the bus stop, especially during winter time with icy roads. In many cases they have no relatives around to ask for help.

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“It’s hard to reach the right person...”

The municipality provides a special taxi service, färdtjänst. But the elderly find it hard to access the service, since the main platform is online. The application requires long and complicated waiting processes and it is hard to get in contact with the right person.


“No-one can reach me outdoors.”

All the elderly are provided with a safety alarm in their home. But the service is not designed for their needs as the alarm does not work outside their home. For this reason many elderly feel unsafe walking outdoors, where no-one can reach them.



Participatory workshops

Through the research process, workshops with our stakeholders were facilitated with the aim to engage them with our material. With a strong focus on creating tangible and accessible research material, we developed a design kit that was supposed to represent our key findings. The kit was used to engage our stakeholders, but also to give them room to challenge their assumptions.



Play board - The intention with the play board was to facilitate for the stakeholders to draw and visually explain their thoughts, ideas and further explore future scenarios. The play board also worked as a point of reference to illustrate the current situation.  

“What if” scenarios & “how might we” questions - “what if” frames were created to be able to zoom in on specific areas or touch points, along with “how might we” questions that could trigger and challenge the conversations among the participants.

Wooden puppets - All the wooden puppets, representing our key elements from our findings, had attached quotes and thoughts from our users. The purpose was to offer the participants a closer understanding of how the users feel and think about their mobility today. 


“Five employees in the municipality can’t deal with 16.000 elderly in Umeå”

Employee at the municipality



How do we design for values, not problems?

We realized that just talking about potential future scenarios would never reveal peoples reactions and actions. We therefore moved from the more tacit engagement that characterized the workshops, to more provocative interventions with the intention to explore reactions and the human behavior in potential future scenarios. Through interventions in the city of Umeå we wanted to prototype with the people instead of for them.


A street only for the elderly

With the sign telling “above 85 years only” we restricted a certain part of a street to empower the elderly in public and disempower the other people. Through this intervention we wanted to explore how people would react and behave in relation to such a restriction. It turned out not to work at all since people were crossing that road all the time without even paying attention to the sign.

Juice service - from text to human interaction

The aim with this intervention was to explore the role of human vs. written text in communication. For this purpose cups of juice were placed on a table in the city centre with a sign saying “free drinks”. Only a few people dared to trust the sign and to took a drink. As soon as we appeared at the table providing the drinks, people immediately came and ask if they could have one and really appreciated us doing this intervention.     

The string of curiosity

In this intervention we changed the restricting string from the first intervention into something that could trigger people’s curiosity. Interestingly some people were following the string even though they could not see where it ended. It seems that provoking curiosity could be a way to change people’s behavior.


Shared curiosity

When we looked into the current quality of communication in relation to mobility, we could see a distrust and an access gap between the user and provider of the existing services. With the intention to bridge this distrust and access gap we could discover, through our interventions, that provoking curiosity might be a possible way that could trigger new ways of dialogues and human interactions to bring the elderly and community closer.



Design explorations

To explore our value, shared curiosity, we started to do design explorations with the purpose to learn how this value could take shape and be expressed in a further design concept. Our design explorations were made both with elderly people and other students at our university, the two groups representing each end of the string of communication.


How do you communicate without words?

In our first exploration we placed pictures on one side of the wall and words describing the pictures on the other side. By communicating without words we asked participants to match the right picture with the right word. They found it difficult to communicate, but the ambiguity of message made it fun.

What triggers your curiosity?

To explore what triggers people’s curiosity we developed ten different ways of delivering one message, from fluffy to concrete. The message was “I want milk”. We started with the sounds of a cow and gradually made the message more clear, ending with a text message. We found that the balance between ambiguity and clear expectations is what triggers people’s curiosity.

How would you like to express yourself?

We developed different message mediums and possible versions for elderly to reach out to the surrounding society. The result showed that talking along while video recording was the preferred medium approach by the participant (a non-smartphone user). She found this as an accessible way to communicate and could easily imagine herself using this in her everyday life.


“There is something about hearing someone’s voice in the context that makes me curious.”

Women 24 years old


With our insights from the design explorations we developed our concept on how the elderly and the community could connect through shared curiosity. The way we elicited shared curiosity into the concept was to make use of it as a trigger for action.

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Low-fi prototyping

With a low-fi prototype we tested the curiosity of a person when he or she was exposed to previous glimpses or user generated stories of an elderly. We found that a story string helps to create a community engagement that elicits a person’s curiosity; where people connect gradually. Another insight we learnt was that people also need to know a bit more about a person to build trust and a personal connection.

Testing interactions with todays elderly

We took the paper concept to a high-fi level and explored interactions with elderly. Since the majority of the elderly today do not have a smart phone, we used paper, light and physical models. We learnt that the elderly prefer one touch interaction to reach out to people, and a phone call for confirmation.

Creating user journeys

To understand the user flow and all the touch points in our concept, we mapped out journeys where both the elderly and the community were represented. In that way we could also discover where to improve or do changes in the navigation.


In 15 years…


A study shows that 66% of the elderly (above age 75) did not use internet during 2013. Therefore when designing for the future we needed to look into how the next generations elderly would behave in the future. We could see that they are using smart phones today, although sometimes in a limited way. For this reasons we developed the interactions with today’s elderly but also translated these interactions into how they could be used in the future.



The look and the feeling of the experience

From physical to digital

When we designed our final interface we started using post-its and slowly moved into digital wire-framing. Our main focus was to transfer our developed interactions, both from elderly and the community, to make sure they were present in the final app.

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User testing the platform

We did validation of the final prototype with both a current volunteer working for the local volunteer organization and also with other students. This gave us further insights regarding the navigation and the flow and if any changes were needed.



During this project I was a part of the whole design process, from early research to final execution. My main focus was ethnographic research (where I often was the translator between stakeholders/users and my team), prototyping, facilitating workshops, creating interaction flows and filmmaking.

My main learnings from this project were how to design with human values in focus and not problems, as well as the importance of prototyping early and trying it out in public. This experience gave me the possibility to discover people's reactions and behavior when changes occurred in familiar surroundings. I learnt a lot by trying out design explorations with our core value in mind, still without knowing the concept. I got deeper insight in complex mobility processes including the consequences of the lack of supporting people around that many are experiencing. In addition I profounded my understanding of the digital divide and how this isolates especially elderly people.