Grey but Mobile

Enhanced Care Service through Improved Mobility for Elderly People (Grey But Mobile) was about improving care-related mobility services for the elderly supporting independent living and social connectivity. Importantly, the quantitative and qualitative effects of these proposed services have contributed to the improved health of the elderly as well as to the economic efficiency of care.

Today, elderly live in their homes longer, predominantly because of improved home care. For reasons of efficiency and costs, this is considered a good development, but it has a downside too. Elderly often live alone and solitude is regarded to be a main cause of health problems. Keeping elderly socially connected and involved, requires them to remain mobile. However, current mobility solutions do not cater specifically for this group.

Mobile-care projects are currently being initiated in the context of the organization of services. A major constraint is the availability of dedicated vehicle-designs and interfaces between services and the means of mobility. A new class of vehicles is envisaged that will specifically relate to the needs of this age group: mobile solutions that will match the environmental, physical, mental and societal needs of the elderly.

What questions were answered?
Teams from 3 universities and Industry partners were working together to answer the questions:

What role does mobility play in the social integration of the elderly and what are their physical mobility needs?
What artefacts are currently available for the mobility of the elderly, which functions do they fulfil, and what is their quality?
How does the service structure for the elderly currently function and what are the constraints?
What PSS solutions can be developed to address the findings?
How can technology be utilized to improve elderly mobility?
What will the effect of these solutions (PSS)  be on the elderly, themselves?

What have the teams achieved?
We have generate a body of knowledge to be used by the creative industry to develop a new range of mobility solutions. Designs, models prototypes were built and tested in natural environments to demonstrate feasibility of these emerging concepts. Additionally, disseminated information to national and international parties involved in this new field of sustainable mobility,

Timeframe and communication:
Grey But Mobile started in 2011 and finished in 2015. Throughout the project, we have published doctoral theses, articles in journals and conference proceedings. We have translated findings into value propositions for care-providers’ clients. Knowledge gained will be integrated into university and professional educational programmes. Progress will be published via this website and explored in workshops.

Who was involved?
Scientific partners: Twente University, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Design Academy Eindhoven;
Industry partners: Roessing Research,Tellens groep, Trivium Meulenbelt Zorg, Zuidzorg, De Loft, Indes, Arriva, Connexxion, Divaco, Waaijenberg.

Project leaders
dr. Lu Yuan, Eindhoven University of Technology
Ir. Marc Beusenberg, Twente University


  • Metaphors as a common language for empathic conversations in collaborative networks Daam, H.L; Gestel, M. van; Raijmakers, Based on extensive experience with collaborative workshops in the Grey But Mobile project, this paper explores how metaphors can play a role to gather empathic knowledge, and suggests a workshop programme to prototype such use of metaphors. Download

Empathic Adventure

The Empathic Adventure is an immersive experience designed for professionals and semi-professionals to contribute with their own expertise to the innovation process, particularly in the area of ageing and care. The participant ‘walks in the shoes of an older person’ by dressing up in a simple ageing suit, listening to an audio narrative, and tracing the steps of a typical journey that person takes. These three elements; physical, audio and a journey are always followed up by an opportunity to translate that experience into the design process, for example, by defining opportunities or new idea generation.
Say you meet Betty. To do this, put on restraining gear that recreates her physical challenges – uneven soles strapped to your shoes that make every step a little bit unstable, and a shoulder strap that pulls you down affecting your capacity to reach and to look up, glasses that make it difficult to see small details. All of these factors make you easily notice the different influences and the ways that Betty must navigate our world. While you embark on a journey to the grocery store – which is your task for the Betty adventure as it is something she does every week – you listen through an earpiece to her telling you about her own journey to the store and to thoughts about her mobility. This physical and audio experience allows you to relate to her story, transporting you into her world. It’s not that you are acting like Betty, rather, you see, and understand, and feel your journey from this different perspective.
Not another ageing suit
The storytelling element of the Empathic Adventure offers a crucial difference to many of the previous examples. These stories are a result of the designer and older person discovering and reflecting together, for example on Betty’s trip to the grocery store. The design researcher goes on the phase of ‘discovery’, doing deep qualitative research with older people. By building relationships through numerous personal visits, they get to know the individual in a very personal way. Different qualitative research techniques such as interviews, photography, observation, shadowing, generative workshops and so forth help to explore the following areas together with participants. After analysing all of the data, we returned to participants like Betty and also asked her to also analyse and reflect on some of the material. In this way we could be certain we had thoroughly captured relevant stories from different perspectives that emerged about their mobility. These stories became the material for the Empathic Adventure. By telling them in immersive ways, participants wander into the world of the other and discover new meanings.
It’s one thing to bring the Empathic Adventure to care professionals, but non-professional care givers are becoming more and more important, and they lack the training they often need in order to support their loved ones, and to watch out for their own wellbeing. As the climate of care changes, this growing group of people becomes more and more relevant. We propose that by connecting to them with the same empathic design thinking and process, the Empathic Adventure could offer care organisations one way to introduce care to non-professionals, to build empathy and to reflect upon their own actions. This emphasis on designing for empathy means we are creating space for a critical reflection on the design of tools, processes and methods for co-designing in this field of ageing and care. Applying this level of thinking in an empathic design approach, we are able to involve care professionals, unearth their knowledge, and empower them to contribute in a relevant way to innovation in ageing and care.