ACRC PPI and wearable technology - a reflective piece
ACRC PhD student David Vaca–Benavides hosted a PPI group call to help him with his wearable design research.
The involvement of stakeholders and interested parties in healthcare research, particularly in the realm of assistive devices, is vital to guarantee positive outcomes. Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) groups represent an exciting opportunity to gather insights and opinions of members of the public and to establish a more realistic context for projects in this domain.
As a PhD student from the ACRC Academy, by the end of our first year each one of us worked in projects related to ageing and care, with the objective to put into practice what we learnt during our taught stage. In my case, having a background in biomedical and electronics engineering made me realise that there is the necessity of developing devices that are compatible with the needs from the older adults, which are different from the general population.
That was the starting point to propose a project to analyse existing design methodologies and to propose a design approach for wearable technologies oriented to this group, that at the same time is compatible for the terminology that engineers use. Additionally, this project included an analysis of the existing literature of design methodologies to find strengths and weaknesses to their application in the context of wearable design for older adults, as well as an evaluation of the proposed methodology with prototypes.
During the development of the project, I had the support of the ACRC with a PPI group to shape my research in regards with the preferences and insights of wearable devices from the perspective of people in later life. My PPI group consisted of three members of the public who had experience in the challenges that older adults face every day, whether from own experiences and from relatives.
We had two sessions that were of absolute value during this project. We had first a session to discuss about their favourite outfit and the reasons of why is their favourite, with the objective to understand preferences of garments and potential features that wearables should have. Additionally, we had a second session to evaluate three prototypes that were conceived as a result of the proposed methodology. In this session, we discussed about their thoughts in regards to materials, ergonomics, wearability and the reasons to choose a particular prototype, allowing further understanding about preferences for wearables.
I am so grateful of having this support from a collaborative group that were interested and keen to help in this research, and that made me realise the importance of working side-by-side with members of the society. Throughout our discussions, I gained knowledge at first-hand about important features that people in later life look after in garments and wearables, which allowed me to produce a design methodology that hopefully will reduce the separation between engineering and design approaches for older adults.
When I saw the wearable technology opportunity, I knew I was keen to take part. I do think devices worn everyday will become more and more important to monitoring and improving people’s health, but with this I know from personal experience that it’s important they are easy to use and wear. We had two calls, which were both engaging, inclusive and fun. At the first, we were asked our thoughts on what we would need if we wore a technology in our socks. This included what would be ideal for us, how we feel about wearing socks every day as well as whether we had any concerns about wearing technology. In the second, we looked at some samples we were sent and discussed them.
We fed back on how comfortable and easy various socks and ankle snoods were to wear, including the experience of taking them off and on which made an enormous difference to the ease of using them as well as what we felt about the actual materials they were made from. We also reviewed the device attachment and removal options. We all had time and space to give our thoughts in a welcoming environment. Taking part in things like these is so enjoyable. I get to meet interesting people and see interesting things whilst bringing my lived experience and thoughts to researchers who are working to make the future healthier for us.