Wrapping Up

Today is our second to last day working for Nightingales on our site! We have been hard at work finishing up the site. The process of de-bugging the site has been taking us longer than expected, but we should have everything sorted out by the end of the day tomorrow.

The site has not been officially launched by our client yet, but you can visit www.indiaelderconnect.com and take a sneak peek for yourself! If you visit the site today, please keep in mind that we’re still actively making changes and fixing last-minute bugs. 🙂

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This is the homepage for the Elders & Caregivers side of India ElderConnect. On this side of the site, visitors can explore health and legal information, ask experts questions, submit community events, share stories, and locate nearby eldercare services.

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This is the homepage for the organization side of India ElderConnect, where the features are aimed at eldercare professionals. There are resources on legal information for NGOs and a variety of training guides. We’ve also included a forum for eldercare professionals to ask questions and collaborate on projects and ideas.

While creating this site has been an immense challenge, it has also been an invaluable learning opportunity. In the next few days, we’ll be sharing our personal reflections on the process on this blog.

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Weekend Adventure in Pondicherry

This weekend, the Eldercare team took a break from WordPress and PHP coding to visit the coastal city of Pondicherry! Rachel, Pritika, and Anna had their first experience taking an overnight sleeper bus from Bangalore to Pondicherry. Despite having “sleep” in the name of the bus, we didn’t get much rest on the bumpy roads!

We made it to Pondicherry and spent two days exploring beaches, churches, and temples.

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We took a speedboat through the backwaters to Paradise Beach, where we enjoyed some coconuts while dipping our toes in the Bay of Bengal.

We have to say though, we’re glad to be back in Bangalore. Pondicherry brought a whole new meaning to hot and humid! We had a fun adventure, but now it’s time to get back to work!

We Have a Site Up!

Over the past week and a half, we’ve been hard at work building out our live site. It’s coming together!

home page draft

Above is a screenshot of our current home page. The styling isn’t complete, but our final site will look similar. We’re using a plug-in called Uber Menus to help us create the navigation system.

uber menu

When you hover over any of the main menu categories, a submenu appears with the more specific menu items. Our site has lots of varied content, and this menu system is helping us to organize all our information. This menu is one of the features that we’ll be testing with our usability tests next week.

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The screenshot above is an example of one of our legal content pages. There are many laws that are relevant to Indian senior citizens. We’re parsing apart the legal content to create pages of information that are easy to navigate and understand.

question and answer

This is our question-and-answer page in its current state. With this feature, senior citizens and their families can post a question about medical, legal, or other issues, and an expert provided by Nightingales will post a timely response. We are still working on the styling, organization, and language of this page but it is functional at this point. Users will be able to sort the questions by category, recency, and the number of up-votes.

Currently, we’re tackling the last two features that require more technical coding. Our “Finding Services” page will ideally pull a user’s location to show them eldercare services located near to them on a Google map plug-in. One of the biggest challenges of this feature is that locations in India do not have standard addresses. Many people use landmarks to navigate. This thus makes it difficult to pinpoint an exact location on a map. (Check out the Urban Informatics GIEP project to learn more about these challenges!). Eldercare organizations will be able to create a listing for their organization and enter their address. Tom is working on some code that will put their address from the listing and create a pinpoint on a Google map.

The other feature we are working on is user accounts. We will have two different classes of users on the site: senior citizens and their families, and eldercare organizations. The two different user groups will have unique capabilities on the site. For example, eldercare organizations will be able to create listings of their services, but senior citizens and their families will not have access to create a listing. Rachel is configuring these user accounts.

Once we have these features in working order, our site will be fully functional and it will be time for styling, user testing, and tweaking!

Editing Content

I’ve been tasked with revising the medical and legal content written by the Nightingales team. My main goal with editing the content is to make it easy-to-understand. We’re anticipating that many of our users will be senior citizens on either their computer or mobile phone. Our site will be initially launched in English, and viewing the site requires access to a computer or other device with internet. This narrows our user-base to elders and carers who are educated and probably middle-class or above. Even so, simplifying the language will make it easier to quickly skim and parse through information.

The first step in revising the content is to remove any medical or legal jargon. The content writing interns for Nightingales have done a solid job of defining any necessary medical terms.

One of the biggest challenges I have run into is the use of British English. In my content style guide, I specified that the text will be written in British English because that’s what our users are familiar with. I, however, am not familiar with British English at all! I’ve had to have a British English dictionary open on my computer while editing. Many words that look misspelled to me are actually written correctly.

Another thing I’ve found interesting is that the initial content was written entirely in the passive voice. Pritika and I have done some research into this, and it appears to be a matter of preference coupled with how Indian students were taught English in school. We’re decided to re-write much of the content in the active voice. It makes the text more clear and concise.

There are a few Indian websites comparable to ours that provide medical information for senior citizens. In my opinion, the biggest issues with these sites is that they are incredibly text-heavy. For example, symptoms of a disease are buried in paragraphs rather than in a bulleted list. That’s something easy that we can improve upon with our content.

I’m finalizing my content style guide so that I can pass it off to the Nightingales team. With some style guidelines, they’ll be able to add content to the site in the future that matches the current content.

Elder Helpline

During the semester, for user research, we primarily relied on literature searches, feedback from Indian and American elders in the U.S., and informal information from our client. Personally, I was craving data – I wanted to support each of our design decisions with data. Much to my relief, on our second day of work, I was given access to resources and data!

Our first set of data was from the Elder Helpline. The Elder Helpline is run by both the Bangalore City Police and Nightingale’s Medical Trust. During an informal meeting with Ramani, one of the prominent research scientists at Nightingale’s, she mentioned that the Elder Helpline was established in 2002 to help curb elder harassment and abuse. However, many of the calls and visits to the police station regarding the Elder Helpline were information inquiries rather than complaints of abuse/harassment.

I had access to 1301 calls and visits from the police logs. Among the inquirers, almost 50% were ages 55-65. 33.59% of the inquirers were female and the remaining 66.33% were male. 57.06% were callers, and 42.94% were visitors to the police station.

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The nature of the calls and visits were primarily follow-up and information requests (respectively, red and green in the pie chart). Follow-up calls could mean anything from following up on information requests or complaints, so I focused on the question: “If they called about information, what did they call about?” The results are shown below:

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The top four topics, other than “Other,” were “About Elder Helpline,” “Senior Citizen ID Card,” “About Old Age Homes,” and “Sandhya Kirana.” This information was particularly helpful in prioritizing our content and layout of our site. It is natural that many of the inquirers wanted to know what the Elder Helpline was all about. In fact, many of the senior citizens we talked to had serious concerns about how to get information. This data only justifies our actions in making information more accessible to this population.

In our website, we aim to highlight the benefits of the senior citizen ID card and information about old age homes. However, this leaves the issue of Sandhya Kirana. Sandhya Kirana is a center for senior citizens who are economically disadvantaged. Since many senior citizens are forced to retire at the age of 60, many of them do not have the financial means or the social support structure to provide for themselves. The team and I are working on how to make information on Sandhya Kirana more accessible, even though many economically disadvantaged senior citizens will not have access to a computer or the Internet.

On the Ground

nmt_centerWe’re all settled in at the head office for Nightingales Medical Trust at their dementia hospital. We’re hard at work on our site! Tom and Rachel are working on developing the core features of the site in WordPress. Anna is editing the site’s content, and Pritika is conducting user research by interviewing and surveying elders and staff members.

It’s great to be finally working in-person with our client. It makes communication much smoother when you are in the same office, let alone time zone!

Understanding Active Ageing

Today was our first day of work. We visited the Nightingales Medical Trust Bagchi Centre for Active Ageing in JP Nagar. We were really impressed with this center, because it was based on a scientific research study (the ThinkingFit research study in the UK). The center’s mission is to encourage Indian elders to socially interact, maintain a healthy lifestyle, be financially secure, and, most importantly, be happy.

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Immediately, upon entering, we were surrounded by bamboo walls and an open environment. We learned that senior citizens can pay a monthly fee for membership to the center, and there are a variety of activities held there each day that promote physical and mental exercise. For example, they run yoga classes and have sessions for brain games.


I was itching to observe and talk to Indian elders. Knowing your customer and your target population is key to making a good product. Indeed, our team’s mission is to make our elder care portal accessible to elders, their families, their caregivers, and eldercare organizations.

We were able to talk with many of the senior citizens at the center and hear their stories:

One of the main takeaways from the day was “social isolation.”

For instance, one woman held my hand and spoke in broken Hindi, Bengali, and English to me:

“My son won’t let me be in the house alone. I don’t know why.”

She was confused as to why she was there, but it seemed that she was genuinely happy to talk to someone. She kept repeating her life story, and I mainly listened while responding sporadically in a mix of Bengali and English back to her. I wondered if she would have been as open to me, if she didn’t know I was a researcher. Would she remember us or our purpose of being here? More importantly, would our website help her in any way?

Another man spoke to us – he was much more lucid than the previous woman. However, his need for social interaction and mental stimulation was blatant. He approached us, without fully knowing who we were, and said:

“I’m retired, and I’m bored. I like logic and mind puzzles and watching French philosophers on YouTube.”

There were others who spoke to us, and we were delighted that there was such a positive reaction to our project. One man came up to us and said “God Bless you!” and proceeded to converse about the U.S.:

“I know the Great Lakes! HOMES, right?”

Overall, our visit really inspired us to find a way to encourage sharing information beyond medical expertise through our site. As a team, we decided we didn’t want to be just a site disseminating medical information and advice; we wanted a way for elders and senior citizens to build a community online.

Orientation in India

We made it to Bangalore! It took slightly longer than a day for some of our group members due to a missed connection in Paris, but we’re all here now. We’ve had several orientation activities with the entire GIEP cohort, including tours at Infosys, IIT-B, Microsoft, and Google. We’ve also visited cultural sites and toured the city, including a stop at the parliament building!

GIEP Group Infosys

group parliament

Almost in India!

Today is our last full day in the United States. We’re excited to depart for India tomorrow evening and begin the overseas part of our fellowship! After months of Skype calls with our client, we’re looking forward to finally meeting them in-person. Stay tuned – our next update will be from Bangalore!

Exposition in Ann Arbor!

On April 17, we presented our project to a group of UM faculty, students, and staff, along with some of our friends and family members. You can watch our presentation in the video below:

Following our lightning talk, we had the opportunity to present our poster and prototype, and answer questions from audience members.

GIEP Team at Expo