Shaohua Pan.

Dissertation: Holistic understanding of elderly's earlier life experiences could improve their care services


Shaohua Pan, MA, investigates in his dissertation how the elderly's earlier life experiences could be considered in designing their current care and more appropriate services.

Demographic ageing has become one of the most significant social challenges in many countries, from Western Europe to East Asia. Hence, elderly care services have become critical: how they are realised in practice and how they fulfill the needs of the elderly. To address this issue, researchers have attempted different solutions. For instance, social workers have proposed empowering the elderly by involving them directly in administering elderly care services. Service designers have also invited the elderly to participate in design process to create more user-friendly and user-centered services.

However, in carrying out these design practices, researchers have not considered how the elderly's past life experiences impact on their current experiences in elderly care. In his dissertation Shaohua Pan explores the phrase 'good old days' which many elderly people express to long for in their care, and how the experiences of 'good old days' could be translated into more appropriate services.

As a part of his research, Pan conducted two projects in Guangdong Province, in the south of China. One was in the Jin-Ding residential community to define what kind of 'good old days' the elderly long for and why; the other was in the Bo-Ai elderly care home to discover how the 'good old days' can be implemented into care practices.

"According to my research findings, the 'good old days' that the elderly long for include three different themes: being with nature, being with family or community, and being creative," tells Shaohua Pan.

Pan gives an example with the words of one elderly participant during the research process: "We planted vegetables not only to harvest fresh vegetables or do some physical exercise, but I sometimes enjoy the 'home' feeling when I touch the soil and water because it brings me back to my homeland where I came from."

According to Shaohua Pan, people working with elderly care services and development must pay attention to the continuity of the elderly's experiences between their earlier life and current care services.

"When the earlier life experiences are considered also in elderly's current care, the services could fulfill better the multiple needs of the elderly, such as physical, mental and spiritual needs. For instance, the hobby of gardening remained from the earlier life could give the elderly a chance to do some physical exercise, to help them reach some self-achievement, and even to connect with their spiritual believes. Those needs actually also involve different interactions, such as human to human, or human to other creatures like plants. Without having such a holistic understanding of the elderly's earlier life experiences, the current service would not be completed," Shaohua Pan addresses in the conclusion of his research.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation Designing for Elderly Care through the 'Good Old Days' by Shaohua Pan, M.A., will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland on Friday, 2 June 2023, at 10 am (UTC+3), with distant connections. The opponent is Professor Miaosen Gong from Jianan University, and the custos is Adjunct Professor Melanie Sarantou from the University of Lapland.

The public defense can be followed online. The link to the meeting is available here.

Information on the doctoral candidate

Shaohua Pan is a docent of service design at the Brand University of Applied Sciences, Germany, and a senior design lecturer at Beijing Normal University (Zhuhai). He earned his MA in Integrated Design from Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany, in 2012. Since then, he has turned his academic interests into social design, service design and design strategy.

Further information

Shaohua Pan
span (at)

Information on the publication

Shaohua Pan: Designing for Elderly Care through the 'Good Old Days'. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 354. University of Lapland: Rovaniemi. ISBN 978-952-337-355-6. ISSN 1796-6310.

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