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Special thanks to my teammates: Sooyeon Kim, Youil Ko, and Zhipei Lim

Walk along, not alone

A board game that helps the elderly Chinese immigrants to know about the end of life(EOL) preparation in the Netherlands context, with the support from social workers and other professionals.

#social innovation  #cultural sensitivity  #persuasive game  #end of life(EOL)


Master thesis

Apr-Oct 2020



Pharos (Dutch Centre of Expertise on Health Disparities)


Sonneveld M.H, Boeijen A.G.C van, Gudule Boland


By giving thoughts to the wishes and boundaries, people can achieve

a better-prepared trip towards the final stage of life.


However, the elderly Chinese immigrants residing in the Netherlands

are facing challenges in coping with EOL.



The project client, Pharos requires a solution to support the elderly Chinese immigrants on the EOL preparation. The solution should be easy-to-implement and sustainable for future development.

Project Approach



How do the elderly Chinese immigrants prepare in the Dutch context? How to improve the current situation? The research focused on two perspectives, what people need and what the system offers. I first built an empathetic understanding of the elderly through qualitative research, knew about their motivation and mindset from in-depth interviews.

Nextly, I built a holistic understanding of the supporting system through literature research and expert interviews. From the practical experience of social workers and experts, I created the journey map and the elderly persona, in the end found out the hindrances and enablers in the current support.


Key Insights


      Early-on interventions play a significant effect

In most end phase dilemmas, people find everything is too late to prepare. However, if the elderly and family members take actions in advance, they can make it much less challenging. The elderly need reliable early-on guidance regarding general EOL issues and typical challenges.


     Two-way communication facilitates EOL preparation

EOL preparation is a complicated and personal matter. Professionals and relevant organizations need to facilitate more discussions and have two-way communication with the elderly to know their actual need and concerns.


     The elderly are different in motivations and mindsets

For most elderly, the EOL preparation is still at an initial level. Their willingness and attitudes are various. The support should be accessible for people with different needs. Ideally, trigger people to each go further on their own circumstances and preferences.


     People need a channel to talk about EOL

EOL preparation is a sensitive topic. The elderly sometimes feel the need but don't know-how. The elderly need a comfortable and suitable channel to talk about EOL. The professionals need a channel to communicate with the elderly as well.


Ageing in a different culture feels like walking in an intricate jungle.

The elderly feel helpless and fearful.

Therefore, I would like to show them a path,

enable them to walk smoother towards a better-prepared end.

A tool is in need to mobilize the elderly

proactively exploring the EOL preparations.

Design guide

Synthesis a design guide from the research outcome,

to guide the design phase






Conducted ideations based on the design guide.

In the end, the board game idea was selected from ideation results.

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Sketch and brain-writing

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Individual ideation

Group session

Write down insights

and cluster.

Come up with ideas for each cluster.

Tips: Think about how would you tackle the problem if you are superman?

Evaluate the ideas via desirability and feasibility, select the board game idea.


Concept development

From idea to ready-to-test boardgame

Design the game content

Define the content to include in this game based on the general EOL preparation guideline and design guide.

- Medical and care option

- Typical challenges and solutions

- Topics reflecting personal preference

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Design the game mechanisms

Design how the game works and in what order, aiming to teach the players to cope with the EOL journey.

Design the user experience

Break down the experience in different game stages. Describe the flow of emotions and make adjustments. Minamize negative emotions. 


Iterate by testing

Multiple tests with several groups of players. Find out problems from the current game flow, and iterate. 

Final design

A complete board game kit

Walk along,not alone.jpg

'Walk along, not alone' is a board game. It introduces end of life preparation in a friendly and structured way. With this game, the elderly Chinese immigrants learn how to cope with ageing and end of life in the Netherlands.

The game offers practical information about end of life preparation. It creates a comfortable atmosphere for talking about the end of life.

Using scenarios



Pick a character randomly. Use the character to play through the game. In this way, players experience different conditions and mindsets.


Challenge section

The player encounter typical challenges in the elderly Chinese immigrants' end of life. These typical challenges include: 1)What to do when feeling physically uncomfortable? 2)From whom to get accompany when visiting the hospital? 3)From whom to get care if necessary? 4)Where to live during the last phase?


Sensitizing section

Answer the questions in the tone of the character. The players gradually get into the game context.


Tips capsule

While encountering the challenge, pick a solution from the tips capsule cards, look through the solutions until finding the satisfying one. There are always solutions!


Relaxing section

Player complete ice-breaking tasks, build easy and happy atmosphere


Discussion moment

Discuss the given topic with peers. Such topics include resuscitation and sedation. During the discussion, the elderly share opinions and think further.


Explore section

Here are the topics worth to know about in end of life preparation. Such topics include: - How to live a healthy life? - What are the available service in the hospice? - What people could do when still capable?


Explore section

Unlock the flip-over cards to know about the topics in detail.



In the end, the players each receive a pleasing bless. ​The game wraps up in a positive manner.

Design expansion


For other immigrant groups

This game format is adaptable. With research input on the target group, this game can fit other immigrant groups in different contexts.


Transfer into other formats

This board game opens up a new format to discuss EOL. It is possible to transmit the physical game into the online game, game APP, VR game, and other formats. Besides, it is easy to update with new information and knowledge input.


Implement in other sensitive topics

The game format is applicable. With research input on the target group, this game can fit other immigrant groups in different contexts.

Special thanks:

Cheuk Hung Wai, Isabel Amorous, Kwok Hung Lau, Lanwen Zhang, Po Yee Leung, Xiaofei

If you would like to conduct other serious discussion in gamification way, click the button below to get game template

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