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

Kicking off Discovery, we conducted surveys and interviews with Design Insight Group (DIG), consisting of older adults (OAs), caregivers, and community experts in NYC.

Through conversations and observations with DIG, we learned about OA frustrations and the ways in which they currently navigate resources. Throughout the fellowship, DIG helped us continuously test and refine a MVP.


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.

We personified OAs as Ellie, an 82-year old living on a low fixed income. She enjoys activities and seeks support at a CBO-run senior center.

We also personified CBO staff, who are hardworking and well-trusted, but are bound by DFTA requirements. These requirements, such as a state required intake form, often present unpleasant client experiences with clinical questions like “What’s your presenting problem?“ The arduous intake process can also delay access to CBO services for weeks on end.

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

To test our hypotheses, we designed a more user-friendly intake form and 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.

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!