At the end of 2020, Kasviportaat Ltd. (‘Green Plant Stairs’) was invited to participate in HIPPA project user trial in Myllypuro Senior Centre. The trial brough together a number of participants and experts and produced a lot ideas to the company, for further development of the product and service concept. At the same time, the experience made the senior centre staff think about the meaning of nature-assisted activities as part of the community’s everyday life. Taking care of a green wall provided rhythm to the residents’ day, evoked memories and enabled learning something new.
Winning the innovation competition led to project cooperation
Cooperation between HIPPA project and Kasviportaat Ltd. started through the national innovation competition organized within the project. The company’s main product is the patented Supragarden® green wall and aquaculture system, manufactured in Finland. In its winning proposal, Kasviportaat Ltd. had an idea of further developing the product with digital solutions, to make it safer and better adapted to the use of senior centre residents. In particular, users with memory disorders were considered. The company had already examined the possibilities of sensor technology, and this time, in addition to a standard usability trial, also the benefits of a mobile application were looked into.
User trial implementation in a tripartite collaboration
The cooperation started by an initial discussion which then led, through a user-based co-creation, to a user trial implemented in an authentic environment. The living lab -type user trial was carried out in cooperation between the company, Metropolia University of Applied Scienced and the Myllypuro Senior Centre of the City of Helsinki (the eastern districts service area). Th user trial team consisted of HIPPA project experts, Metropolia occupational therapy students who, as assistants, had an important role in the user trial data collection as well as in the analysis and reporting of the results.
The user trial was implemented in six group sessions, in a functional small group, whose participants were recruited from a single senior centre department. The occupational therapist of the centre acted as the group leader, the other team members in planning and coordination tasks, and the students as assistants in instructing and carrying out the user trial. Data on the usability and attractiveness of the Supragarden® green wall, from the residents’ perspective, was collected by structured observation methods of occupational therapy. At the same time, the experts collected data on to what extent the green wall supports reminiscing and interaction. Also, the experts’ use of the green wall, the functionality of the product and its applicability to an assisted living environment, where for example a lot of conditions have to be met due to the use of functional aids, were examined. In the elderly care workers’ focus group, managed by the students, the participants generated ideas for the possible mobile application to be connected to the device.
The meaning of the green wall and nature-assisted gardening activities to the residents
According to the residents, the gardening activities on the Supragarden® green wall were relaxing and enabled learning new things. The residents had prior knowledge in taking care of green plants and gardening. The combination of a green wall and an aquaculture system was new to them. The residents were curious to get to know and to learn more about the possibilities of a green wall. The participants together agreed that they will try traditional green plants gardening. The residents could choose the plants to be planted on the green wall. Also the season was observed, and the residents finally chose traditional Christmas season plants for the wall. Many other plants could have been planted as well, for example kitchen garden plants.
Familiar green plants built a bridge to memories. The memories were shared during joint gardening activities. They aroused emotions and, at the same, strengthened identity.
Benefits of nature-assisted gardening activities carried out on a green wall:
- Maintain skills
- Awaken memories
- Provide rhythm in daily life
- Enable pleasant activities
- Build a sense of community
The experiences from the user trial made the participants think about how nature-assisted activities in general could be used in assisted living, in a more purposeful way. In general, activities related to green plants and gardening should be used more in assisted living. From the residents’ point of view, a meaningful activity, such as gardening, would add meaningfulness in life and strengthen the feeling of belonging to a community.
Outcomes of the user trial
The outcomes of the user trial can be assessed from several perspectives. In its feedback, Kasviportaat Ltd. emphasized the value of being able to develop a product to the company in a completely new usage environment. The company was particularly happy with the student assistants’ presentation which provided new ideas for further development of the product and service concept.
From the point of view of the senior centre, the user trial confirmed that a primus motor is needed in introducing a new device. The project enabled the occupational therapist to take this role in the working community. When the introduction process is well planned, the new device will not be forgotten but the activities enabled by it start to take root in the assisted living unit’s everyday life.
The user trial team concretely saw how the big picture of the use and the significance of the product is constructed, as a result of multi-disciplinary cooperation. A successful cooperation requires courage and space to bring up differing views, on the basis of which a successful outcome, which best benefits the companies as well as the professionals and residents who use the products, is constructed.Writers
Suvikki Honkkila, HIPPA project expert, occupational therapist UAS, B.Soc.Sc., M.A., Metropolia UAS
Sirpa Puusti, HIPPA project expert, occupational therapist (M. Sc.) UAS, Myllypuro Senior Centre
Suvikki Honkkila, Minna Kilpeläinen, Tuukka Lindholm, Sirpa Puusti, Jenna Sinkman, Mirja Kiiski
Shooting, cutting, audio editing:
Tuukka Lindholm, Suvikki Honkkila, Minna Kilpeläinen
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