Stanford Longevity Design Challenge 17/18 – The Finalists.

“Promoting Lifelong Healthy Habits Through Design”

How do you know you are getting enough vitamins to prove your healthy eating habits are working? What amount of physical activity are you getting in your day? How would you like to change your sense of social isolation while bridging connectivity across generations?

These are some of the questions that may be answered for you, by looking at three of the eight products featured as finalists in the 5th annual Design Challenge at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Announced last week, this year’s contest finalists come from universities in Singapore, India, Taiwan, USA and the UK. As is the intent of the Stanford Design Challenge each year, these product ideas are not simply designed to serve healthy, active well-being for an older population but rather to be of practical use to people “across the life span”.

As usual, for fun, at this stage of the Stanford process, I usually vote for my top three choices. Yet, while the final eight designs of 2017-2018 appear at first look to deliver on that promise, there is little in the descriptions on the website to give specific details on the background story of each one. Visually though, for now, you can get a general sense of the innovative nature of the designs and what direct issue or problem they are attempting to address.

So going with quick instinct, here is my first brief call on who I would pick as the First, Second and Third place winners. The actual winners will be announced around April 17th, 2018.


Boomerango – Domestic saliva testing device, which detects and monitors user’s vitamin levels on a daily basis to encourage healthy eating.

Gather – Device that facilitates gardening for all ages and abilities and promotes social engagement for a happier and healthier lifestyle. (here on YouTube)

Gesturecise – AI-enabled desktop application, which detects body gestures and uses exercises as a screen unlock device, building physical activity into the workday.


Since it began in 2013, I have been following this particular Design Challenge event as it serves as an annual benchmark reminder of how this field of design is significant to the future of a longevity society. This contest as well as many other design competitions or health “hackathons” over the last five years, focused on healthy aging and longevity, have produced so many innovative products – but to a large degree, you have to wonder – which ones will sustain themselves in the market over time?

With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to see how the winner from the first year of Stanford Longevity Design Challenge is doing with respect to pick-up in the market.

The happy news is that Eat Well, a design by Sha Yao, is still going, and not only that – received a design award as one of the Top 25 Best Inventions of 2016. Available on Amazon, Eat Well is a tableware product initially designed to help people with Alzheimer’s.

One of the encouraging elements of this ongoing design story as it relates to longevity, one that transcends the obvious importance of technology innovation, is the inter-generational aspect. These young designers have been for the most part, inspired to innovate from personal stories of older people in their own lives such as the one Sha Yao tells on her video in the link above.

Along the way, even here in Canada, I have had the good fortune to meet and speak with some of these young enterprising, innovative and empathetic individuals. And in spite of the contest winner glory some of these people may or may not achieve, the fact is that our recognition of their collective efforts, their experimentation and attention to physical, cognitive and social issues is important as we all develop “across the life span”.


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