I chose to make Korean anchovy noodle soup for this project not only because it was low cost, but also because it was easy to chew and very digestible. Given low-income seniors' financial and health status(52.5% of the Korean senior has oral problems and especially 62.5% of the Korean seniors living in rural does not use denture), and the noodle soup is one of popular and comfort foods in Korea, I thought that it would be a good choice for this project.

Research Process 1:

Building empathy through simulation

In order to identify their problems in making the noodle soup, I used two approaches: personal interviews with senior citizens and assorted equipment of my own design to simulate the physical challenges of age.

Empathizing with seniors' hardships in the kitchen

I also looked up references regarding common elderly health issues and the following list of their physical difficulties was noticed.

 

  • Eye problems
  • Waist (Ankylosing Spondylitis)
  • Knee (Arthritis)
  • Oral Health
  • A slowed reaction time
  • etc.

 

In order to empathize the hardships in their kitchen, I simulated them by using design tools I designed.

One was a pair of glasses to give me optical problems and the other was a prosthetic to bend my spine like that of someone who has spent much of their life doing manual labor.

The glasses were made of two plastic lids from ketchup bottles and a pair of free sunglasses that were distributed by Chase Bank during a promotion. The lenses were scratched to distort the visibility.

The prosthetic was designed to give the wearer of the prosthetic a taste of the pain that seniors experience because of their spine. It was made by assembling plywood that was cut by a laser cutter, and an old abandoned backpack.

Cooking with handicap equipments

The cooking process was not simple and the dish required  to do many thing such as dressing and chopping ingredients.

What I found from the simulation

Optical issues

 

Difficulty to fit amount of water in the pot.

Risk of damage from the knife.

Not easy to find utensils.

Not easy to read scales. (ex. control mistake of heater)

Hard to find dirt on the dishes or pots.

Spinal issues

 

Hard to reach to stuffs in the shelf.

Having  fatigue easily.

Optical+Spinal issues

 

Slow movement.

distraction.

Forgettery.

"The emotions that I felt while I was cooking with the equipment were frustration, distraction and sadness. I just badly wanted to finish the simulation as soon as possible."

Research Process 2:

Gaining Insights through Interviews

Interview with a senior

The profile of sample interviewee

 

  • Age : 75years old.
  • Gender : Female.
  • Nationality : Korean.
  • Married, A house holder. (for around 48years)
  • Living in Seoul, Korea.

When dressing the food materials, she felt easily fatigued after standing up for a long time. Therefore, she always wanted to sit and work, because standing and working was very hard. She preferred to sit cross-legged on the floor, instead of sitting on the chair at her dining room table. The reason for this was that the dinning table was not convenient to dress food materials due to its height. The height was good for eating at, but not to work ergonomically. She always felt easily fatigued and suffered with shoulder pain when she worked at the table.

 

She wanted her hands to work below her navel.

One thing she emphasized was that, while sitting down, she had something to lean on for her back. As she sat cross-legged on the floor, she often leaned against the front of the couch.

However, it was very difficult for her to get to her feet after sitting on the floor. Her husband always lifted her up by pulling on her hands and stepping on the top sides of her feet. In addition, sitting cross-legged for a long time has had harmful effects on her spine and knees.

Something I found interesting was that her preferred sitting style did not only arise from the issue regarding the height of her dining room table. Even when she met and chatted with her friends of a similar age, they all usually sat cross-legged on the chairs in the restaurant or cafeteria. I assumed that their sitting habit originated from a cultural behavior.

Findings from the interview

  • The interviewee don’t want to work on the dining room table.
  • The Korean elderly might prefer to sit cross legged.
  • Needs the back to lean on.
  • Sitting on the floor is not ideal.
  • The interviewee don’t want to work on the dining room table.

 

zeppetto72@gmail.com