Retirees + Refugees

The global population of refugees is growing in unprecedented numbers. As the baby boomer generation ages, the world braces for the largest population of retirees in history. By examining the needs of these diverse groups, it is clear to see that willing retirees and refugees are capable of developing reciprocal relationships. There is evidence of these relationships forming around the world.

For many retirees, the need to matter is critical to their psychological state of wellbeing. As refugees integrate into a new country, they need social capital, language practice, and assistance navigating the bureaucracy that retirees have successfully navigated their entire lives.

ClientM.F.A. Thesis Project
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Spero is a global platform that connects retirees and refugees locally based on their needs and skills. The movement employs actors from retiree, refugee, and religious organizational sectors. From the retiree sector, Spero requires participation from organizations like AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and BAGSO (Germany’s federal association of senior organizations). From the refugee aid sector, Spero requires participation from organizations like WR (World Relief) and the IRC (International Rescue Committee).

Spero Thesis Paper

View the full paper for this project from the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida.

The App

The app connects retirees and refugees. It is for Android and iOS devices. The following app demo videos illustrate a match scenario of a retiree and refugee.

Android demo: mobile (a refugee’s user experience)

iOS demo: iPad (a retiree’s user experience)


The Website

The website hosts group networking, event creation, storytelling, and more information. 

The Users

  • The users are intergenerational and culturally diverse, requiring special features in the app interface design. 
  • The following retiree + refugee match scenarios are based on the personas that I created.

User Personas: App Match, A

User Personas: App Match, B

  • I applied information from the above personas to the following sketches of context scenarios, user journeys, and paper prototypes. 

The Brand

  • The name Spero means “I hope.” It comes from the Latin phrase “dum spiro spero,” which means “while I breathe, I hope.” Spero translates similarly into some Romance languages (ie. espero, “I hope” in Spanish). I ran across this term in my word map while investigating the meaning of “indispensable,” which I found in a quote by professor Friederike von Schwerin-High as she described three German novels that romanticize relationships of retirees and refugees as indispensable to one another.
  • The logomark is an anchor that references the term “anchor” (n): “also referred to as a “U.S. tie,” a family member or friend in the United States who can provide assistance to a refugee during resettlement” (Catholic Charities of TN). Anchors symbolize stability, strength, hope, and a safe end to a long journey—a meaning that resonates with both retirees and refugees as they socially reintegrate and integrate, respectively. Repetition of the anchor logomark forms a tessellation that references connectivity. 
  • The logotype uses Futura Bold for its accessibility.
  • The color palette is bright green with contrasting accent colors throughout the app interface. Green is a safe color around the world. It represents growth, safety, nature, luck, and renewal.


Display: An adhesive vinyl infographic—with content in Arabic, Spanish, Korean, and English—covered the curved gallery wall. Two pedestals, one supporting an iPad Air and one supporting an iPad Air and an Android smartphone, exhibited the website and app demos of a retiree and refugee Spero app match scenario. To teach the public about the design process and user experience research, my process book was on the third pedestal. The reception was Friday, March 23, 2018 from 7–9PM. The exhibition introduced Spero to the public. 

Rapid Prototypes: sketches for the exhibit

Process Book

I designed a process book for display at the exhibition to teach the public about the design process. To view the process book, click here


I’m inspired by stories of retirees from around the world who have formed reciprocal relationships with refugees by welcoming them into their lives and communities. This presentation reveals some of these stories.


Works Consulted (pdf): articles, books, creative projects, podcasts, videos, and websites consulted throughout the making of Spero

Visual Research (Pinterest boards): branding, exhibit display, refugees, retirees, and UX/UI

Objects that we interact with can tell us a lot about our needs and values. For example, the International Rescue Committee gathered information on what refugees carry in their bags, from technology to toothpaste. Studying objects that users interact with allows designers to effectively design for them. I collected objects from a retiree’s daily life and noted observations in the following visual diary.