Caregiver Personas: Connecting Dedication with Digital

Persona Example Image

Unless an interactive solution meets a human need or desire, it’s just a surge of energy-sucking pixels. To prevent this, you need to start with personas. According to the UX Lady, personas “identify real users’ profiles’, needs, wants and expectations” and help us answer ‘what’ each would do when faced with decisions, both on and offline.

My senior project is to develop a niche, social media network to help informal or unpaid caregivers (i.e., people who are responsible for overseeing the care of family members or other loved ones), specifically those who care for senior citizens.

Many of these caregivers are 45 to 65 years-old and called the ‘sandwich generation’ because they’re raising their own children, while caring for elderly loved ones. According to studies, these caregivers make up a fifth of Canadian professionals and are often “short of sleep, grumpy….and take it out on customers and colleagues at work,” but they are more than this. They are diverse people, living multidimensional lives.

To find answers, I developed personas, based on composites of more than a dozen caregivers I know personally, plus many I’ve read or learned about through recent research and my communications work with Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres.

They included:

  • Gillian,  theTechnopeasant on  a Mission,’ who is single, 61-years-old and responsible for her 92-year-old mom, who recently pulled a tendon.
  • Bruce, the ‘Hipster Tree-Hugger,’  who is a 52-year-old teacher, married with kids, and cares for Mary, his 83-year-old mom, who still lives in her own home…but that is changing as her scenario unfolds.
  • Nadira, the ‘Techno Diva,’ a 45-year-old, software executive, married with one child and caring for her elderly parents, who speak minimal English, including her 82-year-old father, who’s being tested for sleep apnea.

I built these personas using a hybrid mix of templates from the UX Lady, creative agency Fake Crow and our interactive media course last term. I also reviewed other personality models, such as Microsoft’s archetypes for cross-screen engagement, which I thought particularly relevant to tech savvy caregivers juggling home and work tasks; I thought how each type applied to caregivers I’ve met. From these resources, I identified, merged and created categories that touched on characteristics, such as their goals and frustrations, that can inform ‘how’ I build a social network to support their caregiving needs.

When I presented my personas for the class critique, much of the feedback centred on Gillian. I made her proficient at searching for answers online but lacking any kind of mobile phone.  My classmates thought it impossible that someone who was a senior’s lifeline wouldn’t have embraced the convenience of mobile. However, I based this persona on a real, digital immigrant who didn’t user computers until she was 32 and finds the consistent presence of devices, in boardrooms to diningrooms, offensive. Having heard similar objections from other Baby Boomers, I don’t think Gillian is an anomaly but I tweaked her persona to be more ‘open’ to mobile — someday.

Other suggestions were:

  • Including less affluent, non-professional people
  • Including a younger 20 to 30 something demographic as a secondary audience for cases when they are the only family nearby

I think including less affluent/non-professionals was the most important suggestion and adjusted my personas accordingly. I stayed with the ‘sandwich generation’s’ age range based on my research but will consider younger caregivers as a secondary audience for my overall solution.

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