The Qualified Self: Health and wellbeing services for older people

This project explores how customised technology services can support older people through personal insights rather than numerical data.

This project explores how customised technology services can support older people through personal insights rather than numerical data.

When a person ages, they have a different relationship with their bodies - managing health and wellbeing becomes more complex - and they have a different relationship with technology too. This project explores new technology services to support the health and wellbeing of older people, working with an industry partner from Japan where the ageing demographic is especially pronounced.

The study conducted in-depth ethnographic research with a user group of 24 people, aged 55-75, individually and in groups, in the home and outside, to learn about their lifestyles, to understand the social, physical and psychological factors that shape their health and wellbeing, and to probe attitudes to technology.

Insights from the research revealed that most current tech solutions to support health and wellbeing are aimed at 'digital natives' who have grown up with technology naturally. This is personified by the Quantified Self (QS) movement, which concerns measuring sleep patterns, body fat, heart rate, steps taken, calories eaten and so on, using sensors and input devices so that the individual achieves self-knowledge through numerical data.

A New Approach
The study has developed an approach that goes beyond the Quantified Self to define an idea known as the Qualified Self (QLS), so that the individual achieves self-knowledge through human insights. The Qualified Self is not the opposite of the Quantified Self, nor a replacement for it. QLS is an extension - an important refinement that plays to the needs of older people, 'digital immigrants' who are far less interested in wiring themselves up to collect lots of data and graphs.

QS gives people a better grasp of their performance through the reading of a range of empirical health data; QLS has the potential to give a better sense of self, through the reading of a range of emotional and aspiration aspects of health and wellbeing. Concept designs to illustrate The Qualified Self approach have been developed to show how the system might work in practice.


Panasonic logo
Panasonic logo

Research Associate 2013: Peter Ziegler
Research Partner: Panasonic, Germany and Japan
RCA Department: Design Products
Project Period: 2012-2013

Workshop exercise
Workshop exercise