designing digital solutions for the active elderly

We were tasked with updating and modernizing the user experience of the Life Alert platform. The medical alert company is famous for their slogan “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” and they wanted help updating their digital solutions for current subscribers.

We discovered that senior citizens are not adverse to technology and can be encouraged by wellness messages, and that they could benefit more from a platform that encourages wellness and activity instead of emphasizing accidents and fear.

We took the best of Fitbit, with its appeal and simplicity, and merged it with the safety and security of a help button to reorient the product, and we developed a mobile app to keep caregivers updated on the health and wellness of their loved ones.

Duration and Team: 2 weeks with a team of 3 designers

Tools: user interviews, survey, comparative and competitive analysis, research, design studio, affinity mapping, personas, user journeys, storyboarding, wireframing, paper and digital prototyping, usability testing

Deliverables: click-through prototype of caregiver app, wearable prototype for seniors



We carefully examined the Life Alert platform. Subscribers receive a medical alert button so if they find themselves alone and in an emergency situation, they can get medical assistance.

Life Alert helps over 52,000 people per year, but subscribers didn’t feel that the object is empowering to wear and as designed, it doesn’t serve to reinforce wellness behaviors.


Our survey shared general perceptions of Life Alert. The older demographic considered it a particularly useful product.

“I've seen the advertisement, "I've fallen and can't get up." It alerts someone when an elder needs help. What's not to like?” - Woman, age 55-64

The younger generation was more familiar with brand from the commercials and marketing efforts.

“Silly commercial, but necessary service.” - Man, age 22-34


There’s a popular assumption that older people are less inclined to adapt to newer technologies. However, we found that they were already actively adopting wearable technologies such as FitBit and that they were encouraged by the encouraging messaging from the product.

We also wondered if the elderly would be resistant to the involvement of caretakers and family members in their daily activities. However, we found that they were happy to have regualr contact with their family members about their health and wellness.


Key insights:

  1. Life Alert doesn’t include “Fall Detection” sensing, which adds to peace of mind and additional value to the product.
  2. Life Alert requires a 3 year minimum contract, while other companies operate on a month-to-month basis and are seen as more trustworthy, more flexible, and as an easier commitment to make.



Our research led to three representative personas: two of older people that would be the target to use the wearable device, and one of the caregiver/family member demographic, who would be the child of someone with the device.


Our user journey of the experience with the existing Life Alert button highlights:

  • the stigma and embarrassment of using the actual physical product.
  • the positive impact that device ownership can have on the life and wellbeing of consumers.
  • the opportunity for improvement and innovation in the product.


Our approach was to expand the technological possibilities within the device and increase the value of the product for the elderly users, while also including a link for the caregivers and family members to be involved in the health and wellness of their loved ones.

As part of our ideation process, we created paper prototypes of both our wearable device and of the wireframes for our mobile application. The wearable device developed size, shape, and screen style through multiple iterations with usability testing and feedback from caregivers and elderly people.


The usability testing informed our mobile app designs. We gained insights that led to the removal of location-based features to give the elderly more autonomy, as well as a better understanding of mental models for naming and iconing certain items.


Our final design solution includes a click-through prototype of the caregiver mobile app and screens for the wearable watch for the elderly.

Click here for the prototype.