An App to Make New Friends: Intergenerational Brainstorming

Brainstorming an App for Loneliness


Ever thought "I need to make some new friends: There should be an app for that"?


A group of Longevity Explorers and design students brainstormed the features they would like to see in an "App to Make New Friends" at an intergenerational design workshop at the 2018 Stanford Centre on Longevity Design Challenge.


To be more specific, here is the way we framed the discussion.

Imagine you are helping develop a product (likely an app or website) designed to make discovering and connecting with friends more likely and more satisfying.


Listen to the Brainstorming Discussion

In the audio recording below, you can hear older adults and younger design students bouncing ideas off each other about a variety of aspects of an "App for Finding New Friends".



Discussion Highlights

The intergenerational group talked about things like:

  • The importance of Privacy;
  • How to handle Language and Context;
  • Need for a Common Lexicon;
  • Online vs Offline;
  • What Platforms different types of people prefer;
  • The optimal time of day for interactions;
  • TRUST;
  • Are Interests really a useful way to identify "friends"; and
  • Do we want something like this App?



This design brainstorming session was led by Richard Caro and Ken Smith. This was part of a larger workshop at the Design Challenge (1). The workshop was organized by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Tech-enhanced Life. You can see an article capturing everything we discussed at: "Intergenerational Design Opinions".

For more about Loneliness and Social Isolation see the exploration "Isolated and Lonely: How Can We Avoid This?".


    Does an "App to Make New Friends" Already Exist?

    We know some of you are thinking "but doesn't this already exist?".

    Well, we know of several attempts to develop something like this, but we think there is quite a bit of room for improvement in the ones we know about, especially an App designed to be useful for older adults.

    We would like to know of more "Apps for Making New Friends". If you know of such products, please tell us about them in the comments section at the bottom of the page — especially if you have used them and have an opinion about how useful they are.

    For developers working on something like this, we hope the ideas in the brainstorming session below might help make your product even better than it was going to be. :)

    If you have questions, or want to dive deeper into what we have learned about this topic, feel free to reach out with questions or to arrange a discussion via the comments section below.



    (1) Design Challenge, organized annually by the Stanford Center on Longevity.




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    Reader Comments: "An App to Make New Friends: Intergenerational Brainstorming"


    from Jim Schrempp (unverified) at February 05, 2019

    I helped a friend (really, not me) use the OurTime app and website. It says something that she needed help from me to complete the sign up process - she didn't feel able to get through it on the website by herself. From a technical perspective I found both had a number of issues for someone 80+ years old. Some quick examples ... Font size was small. Save/Cancel buttons when editing a text field were not standard. A 500 word text field displayed room for only about 25 words. At one point the app had a required confirmation button displayed off-screen with no way to scroll to it. The inbox looked a lot like a normal email inbox and my friend was a little confused at first between her regular mail and her OurTime mail. A more comprehensive review would probably bring up a lot more issues.

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    Last Updated: September 10, 2021.