Samantha Brady and Sheng-Hung Lee Present Their Research for Life Tomorrow Discussion Series

by Adam Felts

AgeLab researchers Samantha Brady and Sheng-Hung Lee gave presentations on their research as part of the AgeLab’s Life Tomorrow Discussion Series, which showcases findings and insights for AgeLab members and friends.

For the July 14 webinar, Samantha Brady discussed some of her research on the intergenerational workplace. In 2020, she developed a focus group study to understand the relationships and expectations that different generations have about work and careers. 38 participants made up focus groups of people from Gen Z and Gen X. The focus groups were conducted over the Zoom teleconferencing platform.

To develop an understanding of how they viewed their working lives, the focus group participants were asked to describe the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career.’ They were also presented different photos to elicit their present feelings about their careers. Additionally, they were asked to name significant historical events in their lifetimes to identify generation-defining events in their work-lives.

The participants were also asked to name the most important elements they look for when making employment decisions. Participants who were members of Gen Z were more likely to mention a sense of purpose and the elicitation of feelings of passion as important qualities for a career, while Gen X tended to emphasize material goods like making enough money and having quality workplace benefits. However, these differences could be related to the different stages on the life course of the participants rather than—or in addition to—generational differences.

Finally, Ms. Brady observed that the participants of both generations did not have caregiving in view as a potential disrupter to their working lives, although broadly speaking, the demand for family caregivers is growing significantly in the United States and other countries.

For the July 28 session, Sheng-Hung Lee presented some findings from his Master’s thesis project for MIT Integrated Design and Management (IDM) and Department of Mechanical Engineering, which centers around designing a pair of “smart” slippers for older adults. He discussed his adherence to principles of human-centered design (HCD) and system engineering, which focuses on the experiences and preferences of users within their social environments.

His methodology led him to attend particularly to the needs and lived realities of older adults, including changes in shape of older adults’ feet and the prevalence of foot pain among older adults. He asked prospective users about which needs they would want a pair of smart slippers to fulfill, eliciting preferences for health monitoring, relaxation, and prompts to exercise.

He also attended to the role of emotions in driving purchasing behavior and preferences, including the perception of the ‘coolness’ of footwear.

More broadly, Mr. Lee aims to apply his design and engineering skills on his master thesis project not only toward creating smart footwear for the aging population, but also a user-centered smart platform that can benefit older adults in the future.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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