how can we better create tech designed specifically for the elderly?

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makeHARVARD makeathon team submission


We were looking for ways to increase the positive impact of technology on senior citizen communities and motivate them to pursue healthier lifestyles. We thought long and hard about how to build an integrated system for seniors that would empower them better than existing digital health solutions, recognizing their own ability and agency in improving their own health.

After calling our own grandparents for their perspectives, empathizing with the experiences of the senior constituency, and iteratively refining our concept based on what we learned, we determined that focusing on hydration within the context of a communal living situation offered the largest opportunity for impact. The health effects of dehydration are serious, but they are easy to avoid by simply drinking water more frequently.

We used an experience design-led approach to develop an integrated community system that would work within existing facilities and amplify positive human factors to improve health. Introducing: Aqualink.


What it does

Aqualink is a smart water fountain paired with personal water bottles. It recognizes users and provides them individual positive feedback to encourage healthy water intake. It is an iteration towards a more human, more connected future in which technology aids society in subtle ways to improve health.

The fountain recognizes when a bottle is placed for fillup, greets the user by name, and provides individualized feedback on water use. Currently these values are hardcoded, but the design calls for expansion to recognize individually tagged water bottles by RFID codes, which the Android phone sensor has the capability to do. Eventually a community progress display will be implemented, leveraging a mechanism by which the healthy habits of the community as a whole can be tracked and tied to real-life rewards, for example, an additional community party or dessert.