Turnstyle App Design

How might we use technology to improve the lives of low-income older adults and caregivers in NYC?

Goal: To improve access to benefits and entitlements needed to age successfully

Team: Design Fellow (Me), Product Fellow, Social Worker, Design Insight Group at Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood


Discovery Phase 


Surveys, Interviews, Observations

To kick off the discovery phase, we conducted surveys and interviews with Design Insight Group (DIG), consisting of NYC older adults (OAs), caregivers, and community experts.

Through conversations and observations, we learned about major frustrations in older adults' lives, how they currently access resources, and how technology might help make their lives a little easier. Throughout the fellowship, DIG helped us continuously test and refine a Minimal Viable Product to present back to community.


Stakeholder Maps, Personas, User Journey Maps

Stakeholder mapping helped us identify key figures such as low-income OAs, local CBOs, and the Department of the Aging (DFTA), while personas helped keep our work user-centered.

Our OA persona was Ellie. She is 82-years old and lives alone on a low fixed income. She enjoys meals and activities at a senior center run by a CBO. She also seeks support from the director here, specifically asking to talk to someone about a family problem she’s having.

We also personified caregivers such as CBO staff. We recognized how hardworking and well-trusted frontline workers can be, but how they are bound by DFTA requirements that can create unpleasant client experiences.

After validating user journeys with DIG, we knew that people must complete a state-required Brief Intake Assessment Form to access CBO services. The form is 10 pages long and asks impersonal questions; it may take weeks before someone ever gets a response.

Not only is it difficult to ask for help in the first place, the process of getting help poses obstacles as well. Here was an opportunity to redesign the way CBOs address the needs of older adults in a more dignified way, while still meeting system requirements.


Build Phase

Ideation and Prototyping

Wireframes, User Testing

From our research, we understood the organization requirements that make it difficult to access support. We also observed that OAs were much more likely to open up more about their challenges if they were treated warmly and holistically.

We tested this hypothesis by designing a more user-friendly intake form. We also designed a response system that was tailored to their individual interests and need – one that recognized them as more than their challenges and supported their self-determination.

Rapid prototyping allowed us to quickly test the flow, tone, and overall user experience of the Turnstyle intake form. We were also able to test and iterate on different forms of the response system including podcast, phone, and mini magazine.

 Debriefing and preparing to test another iteration of the intake form

Debriefing and preparing to test another iteration of the intake form

 Early layout planning for the mini magazine, using real user input on the intake form

Early layout planning for the mini magazine, using real user input on the intake form

Our MVP (below) was an intake form that provided a warmer welcome into the CBO, as well as personalized mini magazines containing a resource directory and self-care content.


Turnstyle Intake Form


Turnstyle Response System – Mini Magazine

Ellie mini mag.jpg
mental health.jpg


Of those who went though the Turnstyle intake form, we found that:

— 72% Older Adults indicated unmet medical needs

— 45% Older Adults indicated unmet mental health needs

— 18% Older Adults indicated unmet financial needs

We also found that the mini magazine drove high levels of follow-through and engagement with poverty-fighting benefits and programs. One hundred percent of newsletter recipients followed “Next Steps” after receipt of newsletter, which included:

— Enrolling in benefits and entitlement (eg: Access-A-Ride, Silver Sneakers) 

— Engaging with the health care system (eg: finding a doctor, finding a mental health professional)

— Taking recommended self-care steps (eg: meditation, downloading a financial management app)

"I found a doctor recently and I’m really happy... I did it because of the information Turnstyle provided.”
 – DIG Member

Thanks for reading!