August 2022
Aging in Place Design Services: How to Develop Successful Aging in Place Products
<a href="" target="_self">Sundberg-Ferar</a>

Marketing Manager

Aging in Place Design Services: How To Develop Successful Aging in Place Products

When it comes to aging in place design, there is a growing scope of product solutions addressing this market. However, there are still gaps to fill in the aging in place experience and pain points to be addressed through new product development or improving on existing designs.

Every deficient or missing link in the aging in place experience means an opportunity for companies like you to gain new market share and grow your business by responding to that need with a better-designed product; a product that addresses real needs and makes people’s lives better.

That’s where human-centered design and innovation for aging in place comes in.

At Sundberg-Ferar, we help ­­companies solve both tactical product development challenges and strategic innovation challnges in aging in place and across healthcare categories through our full suite of services in design & innovation.

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the common business dilemmas and pain points that aging in place companies will come across from our experience in the field, and why leveraging human-centered product design and innovation services helps you overcome them to create market-winning products that grow your business.

Scroll down to dive in.

Reach out now for a free consultation and see how our design & innovation services can help you bring better Aging in Place products to market.


Here are just a few common hurdles in the aging in place product development industry that can be addressed through human-centered design and innovation services: 

1. Product Design to Implement VOC and De-Risk Commercial Launch

It’s a common pitfall: In fast-growing markets like aging in place, it’s tempting to ignore some of the best practices of a robust product development process in order to rush a product to commercialization and be “first to market” to capture the massive amounts of category investment.

However, truncating the development process, especially in phases like product refinement and product validation, exposes your product and company to huge risk of failure on the market.

You’re almost certain to miss key user needs and obvious product requirements for the intended use-case without a robust product development process (even an accelerated one) that includes basic user testing and evaluation of the concept.

The human-centered product development process we’ve honed here at Sundberg-Ferar uses design research and other capabilities to take a rigorous look into the real-world needs, desires, and lifestyle choices of your target market segment, and helps you refine your product to deliver the optimal user experience while supporting an accelerated time to market.

For Example:

For example, we worked with DESiN LLC who was the first to create a robotic assistant, Obi (pictured below), to aid individuals with limited upper mobility feed themselves independently without a caretaker.

Speed to market was critical for revenue & investment purposes, however with Sundberg-Ferar’s guidance and with the help fo our human-centered design services, DESiN invested in key product validation activities with Sundberg-Ferar before launch.

As a result, they uncovered product needs that if unmet would have affected the product’s performance on the market.

Sundberg-Ferar executed observational research for DESiN with multiple target users interacting with the robot over a two-week period to evaluate its usability. We discovered new opportunities in how users were interacting with the robot during this time that enabled us to design and implement more intuitive HMI (human-machine interface) features into the product. These features reinforced the user’s perception of Obi as a friendly & helpful servant, rather than an intimidating technology in their dining experience.

Because of the Sundberg-Ferar’s flexibility and speed in project management and deliverables, we achieved this for DESiN while also meeting their aggressive development timelines.

Find Obi in our portfolio

2. Product Design for Aging in Place can Optimize Product Cost

While it’s much harder to afford personal caretakers or assisted living than a handful of aging in place products, these new technologies can still come at a considerable price.

If you have a great aging in place product design, but the combination of materials and methods required to manufacture and assemble the product give it a hefty price tag, this is an area where product design and development services can help.

With thoughtful design and creative problem solving, the cost of your aging in place product can be optimized.

An experienced and multi-disciplinary product development team can help you understand the big picture of factors contributing to your product’s cost. Using design research (most likely focus groups or interviews in this case), they can identify the product features that your users need or love the most, and then use industrial design, and creative engineering to find ways of simplifying the product, suggesting alternate architectures, and/or saving on manufacturing costs, while capitalizing on the parts of the product that deliver the most value.

For Example:

We did this just recently for a client who was developing a new type of wearable health product for measuring the content of specific chemicals in the user’s blood. The company had a working prototype, but still had a long way to go to optimize it for manufacturing and production at a reasonable cost. The Sundberg-Ferar team used industrial design along with mechanical and electrical engineering capabilities to optimize the product’s architecture, individual components and subsystems, and assembly methods to accelerate the product’s road to feasible production and optimize it for the client’s pricing strategy.

For every deficient or missing link in the aging in place experience, there’s an opportunity for companies like you to gain new market share and grow your business by responding to that need with a better-designed product; a product that addresses real needs and makes people’s lives better.

3. Product Design to Deliver Value for All Stakeholders

There are products out there that may provide an ideal experience for older adults, OR the children of older adults, OR the healthcare workers that support them, but it’s rare to find a product that meets the needs of all these stakeholders at once. This is one of the aspects of design we talk about most often with clients at Sundberg-Ferar:

When designing a product you have to consider everyone who will interact with or be affected by the product at every stage of its use. Another way of saying this is: Design for all stakeholders.

The principles of human-centered design take into account the full landscape of stakeholders involved in the product’s use and create a solution that works for each of them. In aging in place design, this stakeholder landscape tends to include even more players than usual…

As a person ages it takes an increasingly large community to provide support and care to that person – whether that’s the older adult themselves, their close family members, healthcare professionals, or the customer service teams and those responsible for servicing the products themselves.

A strong design team offering human-centered design services for aging in place should be able to provide leadership to help you design the product in alignment with the needs of not just your end user, but everyone involved. This also includes your business; its core strengths and competencies, workflows, and customer service.

A product is only as strong as its weakest user touchpoint. Without designing for all stakeholders, your product could fail even if it succeeds in pleasing 90% of the stakeholder’s involved, but missed just one.


For Example:

We’re currently working with a client developing a remote patience monitoring device that is embedded within a folding bed mattress and collects data while the user is resting.

This product could work perfectly once installed and deliver a great experience to older adults and the loved ones who are checking up on them, but unless the product is able to be installed correctly by whoever the “installer” might be in a variety of scenarios – a mattress delivery service, the user’s friend or child, or a customer service team from the company itself – the product’s entire experience and value is in jeopardy.

That’s why this client chose to leverage Sundberg-Ferar’s expertise in aging in place design and medical product development to take into account the complex equation of stakholders involved and ensure that the product was designed to meet the requirements of all stakeholders and touchpoints.

4. Innovation Strategy to Identify New Product Opportunities for Aging in Place

If you have big questions like, “how should I plan my product portfolio to meet disruptive industry trends” or “how should I transition my medical device portfolio to be relevant in the home”, these high-level strategic questions require the methods and tools of Innovation Strategy to investigate, identify where your best opportunities are, and give you evidence-based confidence and actionable steps to move forward with a mid-to-long-term product roadmap for the future of aging in place.

To learn about how innovation strategy can help you identify and synthesize product and service opportunities for the future of aging in place, you can find a step-by-step overview of our proven innovation strategy process with an example related to the aging population here.


Giving you confidence to go to market with aging in place product design & innovation services

Hopefully this gives you a taste of some of the common challenges we’ve seen aging in place companies encounter and how they leveraged human-centered product design & innovation services to

  • develop new products at speed
  • capture the hearts and minds of users,
  • position their product for success,
  • set themselves apart from the competition,
  • and grow their business 

If you’re looking to discover innovative opportunities for your aging in place portfolio or increase your product success through design and innovation, we’d love to talk!


Aging in Place Design Services: How to Develop Successful Aging in Place Products



Marketing Manager

Lynnaea Haggard, Marketing Manager, has a natural passion for storytelling and building relationships. She started her college education in Journalism, but soon found her passion in switching and completing her degree in Industrial Design. Now she uses her industrial design skills and enthusiasm for communication to support studio projects as well as design and develop Sundberg-Ferar’s marketing and communications materials. In her spare time, she is a freelance musician, reads, does anything outdoors, and works with her husband on updating their 1924 Detroit home.

More thoughts from Lynnaea