Stanford Longevity Design – 2018/19 Winners.

In Praise of Intergenerational Design

Story telling between generations seems to be the winner of the Stanford Center on Longevity 6th annual Design Challenge at the finalist’s pitch presentation last week.

For the first time, there was a tie for first place between two design teams, which addressed this theme of intergenerational story telling. If you look at the third place winner, you can also see how elements of this exist in the concept of a game app aimed at getting grandparents and grandchildren to play together.

So You Think You Know Your Grandma? – is an intergenerational storytelling-based card game designed by students at UC Berkeley that uses prompts to break down intergenerational barriers. Apparently, based on a tweet from the event, their high-level prototype brings a solution that creates connections without having to go online. What a novelty.

Of course not being at the Stanford pitch, there is no way for me to describe how it actually works, so maybe the photo here can help a little for now. However, with a little digging I found this link to the Fung Fellowship focused on Wellness & Technology, whose sponsored students participated in this design challenge entry.

Tied in first place with Your Grandma was Family Room – designed by a team from Stanford, this is a story storage solution so to speak, (or “podcasts with a purpose” of sorts, as one #Design4Generations tweet put it.)

Described as high quality and low-tech, these audio stories help families capture and share the histories of their older loved ones. Brilliant. Makes me recall how years ago I taped an interview with my grandmother’s dear old friend in England where she told stories from the 1920’s and how life was raising their children in tough times. Sadly, those low-tech cassette tapes didn’t preserve well. Yet at least in my memory of that day I can still hear her wispy voice tell the tale.

As usual with this Design Challenge, after the finalists were announced in January, I made my top three choices based on whatever information I could find, and one of my choices – Pillow Fight – designed by students from Yuan Ze University, Taipei, won third prize.

Based on their web news page: “this cross-generational game is aimed at grandparents and grandchildren playing together…. The principal of design is based on adaptive behavior which is easy to play without age limit.” The product embeds gaming devices in pillows. Looking at one photo from the pitch day, I’m not sure how the pillow fight works over long distance. It must be fun – but wasn’t half the fun of a traditional pillow fight, ducking a hit in the head?

Though one of my other picks i2 Housing from New York University did not win, I want to mention this again. Supported by US based Generations United, it deserves an honourable mention. I think this app-based intergenerational home sharing model meets an on the ground, immediate true life need for both young people with rising student debt and older people facing social isolation living alone aging in place.


While the Stanford Longevity Design Challenge is now over, this student-focused competition followed up the day after with a workshop for the finalists to learn how to develop business plans for their designs, how you move from student to start-up you might say.

If that isn’t enough, Stanford is quick off the mark with their announcement April 16th of the Design Challenge 2019/20 theme – “Reducing the Inequity Gap: Designing for Affordability”. Great timely title, which ties into one of the major themes “Addressing Inequalities” at the International Federation on Ageing 2020 Conference in Niagara Falls Canada.

Consumers with varying degrees of social and economic inequity in a longevity economy can’t wait a decade for technology designed products to come to market with affordability and accessibility. Anything Stanford and others like AGE-WELL in Canada can do in the technology and aging space to move products faster from pitch to practicability, into the hands of everyday people, the better it will be.

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