International design students teamed up for solutions to elderly issues in China: 2009

The School of Design (PolyU Design) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University organized and hosted the six-week-long International Design Opportunity Workshop,, an annual summer design workshop, together with its partner institutions. This year’s theme was "Design and Ageing in the PRD", addressing the massive shift in demographics and with it the boom of the elderly population in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region in China. 16 students from Germany, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong formed groups to explore the needs of the elderly and create innovative concepts for products, services and facilities targeted at the wellbeing of this growing population from a broad design perspective.

The four cross-cultural teams worked on research and design under supervision of tutors from PolyU, Delft University of Technology of the Netherlands, Köln International School of Design of Germany, and the Hong Kong Design Institute, after a four-day study tour to the PRD region visiting sites and interesting projects for ageing people. They prepared research reports, conducted market research, developed group identities, design strategy and proposed brand and product ideas culminating in a 5 minute multimedia commercial of the final and a design report. New this year was the creation of a blog site in which students published their weekly results and got feedback from their target group internationally (

‘I am e_’, one of the groups of the workshop, designed a game for the isolated elderly to help them come out of their isolation. By playing the game the target users can have fun and increase their self-confidence, while being encouraged to more social communication. Another group, ‘Laogen’, designed luggage with special features for the younger elderly Chinese traveller who travels by bus and train. Group ‘Masudaha’ proposed a knowledge sharing platform facilitating direct contact between elderly and others in society. Through this internet-assisted platform, facilitated by elderly centers and the like, experience, skills and knowledge about a variety of subjects can be shared. This concept of a service design is to enhance the ability of the elderly users to still contribute to society in a productive way and forge communication between the generations. The fourth group, ‘SDEP’ (standing for students design for elderly people) aimed to improve the health care system in PRD through the design and branding of products aiding elderly to maintain their self sufficiency and dignity.

This is the 5th annual run of the Workshop. Every summer, students and tutors from institutes around the world are invited to Hong Kong to participate in the workshop. It is a successful teaching model targeted at encouraging international and multidisciplinary design collaborations and cultural exchange. Through sharing experiences, design methods and ideas and the hands-on work with design students and educators from different countries, the workshop participants are able to create fresh new design solutions for people in a sustainable manner, as well as learning in an accelerated yet fun mode. The workshop has been termed a “pressure cooker model for the experience of culture and designing”. 2009 Blog:


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Ms. Philine BRACHT, Visiting Associate Professor
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Ms Rennie KAN, Senior Marketing Manager
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About the Theme of Workshop 2009 - "Design and Ageing in the PRD"
The social and financial systems in the industrialized nations are facing rapid change as a result of their ageing populations. China’s one child policy has created an increase in the proportion of the population that is over 65 years of age. China will soon have the worlds’ second largest ageing population after Japan. The Pearl River Delta (PRD) is a window on developments elsewhere in China and Asia.

“Statistics show that, from 2000 to 2007, the number of Chinese people aged 65 or older will increase from the current less than 100 million to more than 200 million, up over 4 million per year and the aged will make up 14 percent of the total population. But from 2028 to 2036, the number of the same group will surge from 200 million to over 300 million, indicating that the aged Chinese’s total will increase by some 10 million each year and make up 20 percent of the nation’s total population in the end.” China Daily News Service, 06/04/2004

Project start date: Monday June 1 2009
Week 1 Ethnographic research in PRD
Week 2 Design research and checkpoint presentation (HK)
Week 3 Focus point and concepts generation (HK)
Week 4 Design development sketch model presentation (HK)
Week 5 Final design development (HK)
Week 6 Movie design commercial, presentation to stakeholders (HK)
Project Completion: Friday July 10 2009