The purpose of this project was twofold: to create a design piece that was based on a concept developed by one of the learning theorists discussed in class, and use said design piece to increase senior citizens’ use of compression socks/stockings. The chosen learning theory had to be implemented into a prototype that could be used in a video that senior citizens would watch. As the instructional designer, I chose the learning theory and what form the prototype would take, and then collaborated with two broadcasting students to produce the final video.
The first step in researching a solution to increase the use of compression socks was to understand my audience. A visit to the Kerby Centre in downtown Calgary provided insight into what questions, issues and concerns older adults may face older adults on a daily basis. This ethnographic research also highlighted what approaches the Kerby Centre takes in addressing these difficulties and what makes their approaches effective.
I was also able to talk to a woman who had a compression sock business and was a wearer of the socks herself. This allowed me to understand the technology behind the garment, and what common problems most people have when they are first prescribed a pair of compression socks.
After my research, I was able to identify what I thought was the most likely disconnect between seniors and the use of compression socks. It was not an issue of them not understanding how to put on the socks, but rather why and when they should be using their compression socks. Discussions with Kerby Centre staff revealed that the idea of aging – of not being as independent, as being viewed as old, as needing help from people – was something that many older adults tried avoiding and accepting.
It was this idea of addressing the difficulties surrounding aging that formed the foundation of my prototype. I wanted to show that even aging could be presented in a fun and positive way. I also wanted to incorporate a reminder to the user to wear their compression socks consistently, in order to help ease the stress of having to remember every day.
I was able to use two learning theories that dovetailed nicely into what I wanted my prototype to achieve.  The first theory was Edward Thorndike’s “Law of Effect,” which states that any action that results in positive consequences – whether they are physical, emotional or mental consequences – are likely to be repeated. This would be used to show people why they should wear their compression socks, and give them a positive emotional reward when they did so. The second theory I integrated into the prototype was Ruth Colvin Clark’s theory of Cognitive Load. This concept outlines ways to present information that reduces the load on cognitive abilities while encouraging learning performance.
The final design piece/prototype of this project was divided into two parts. A daily calendar with encouraging sock-related puns and sayings provided positive reinforcement, and a traditional “sock monkey” stuffed animal was repurposed to act as a fun and casual reminder for seniors to wear their compression socks. The calendar would be placed near the senior citizen’s bed or nightstand, and each day they would flip the calendar page to a new saying, which helped to build the positive habit of wearing compression socks through the use of emotional reward. The sock monkey itself could be placed elsewhere in the house, such as near the front door. The monkey would act like an “Elf on the Shelf” toy in that its presence would act as a continual and additional reminder to wear the compression socks.
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