Experiences of older adults and undergraduate students in co-creating age-friendly services in an educational living lab

Annemieke van den Berg, Belinda Dewar, Carolien Smits, Jan S. Jukema

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One of the purposes of an undergraduate programme in gerontology is to facilitate future professionals in developing co-creation competences. A newly designed living lab serves as a powerful learning environment where students and older adults can work together in creating age-friendly services and products.

The aim of this study is to gain insight into the shared experiences of older adults and students in co-creating age-friendly services in an educational living lab.

The living lab and subsequently the research was informed by appreciative inquiry. The study has a qualitative, explorative, and multistage design with a six-stage alternating process of data-collection and analysis. We collected data from six individual interviews (n=3 older adults and n=3 students) followed by two group interviews with two other older adults and four students. Data analysis resulted in a shared story of working together in the living lab.

The co-creation experiences of older adults and students are highlighted in a rich and meaningful narrative. A shared narrative has been constructed from both perspectives, older adults and students. There are three themes are central: working together, our learning experiences, our best experience. The narrative stresses the importance of building a relationship to foster co-creation and uncertainty as beneficial to equality and shared responsibility.

Conclusions and implications for practice
Co-creation in an educational context is meaningful to older adults and students. Appreciative inquiry in both the research and practice of the living lab can facilitate relationship equality, which is highly valued by the participants.
This study:
•shows how a co-creation approach in a living lab results in experiences of equality in both students and older adults
•highlights the need for investments in time and energy and allowance of uncertainty to obtain co-creation success
•challenges ageism by providing a positive example of older adults bringing valuable skills and expertise into age-friendly service design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Practice Development Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2019


  • Co-creation
  • Living lab
  • Older adults
  • Undergraduate students
  • Emotional touchpoints
  • Appreciative enquiry


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