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).

App Prototype & Website

  • The website hosts group networking, event creation, storytelling, announcements, and information. coming soon
  • The app connects retirees and refugees. It is for Android and iOS devices.

Android demo: mobile

iOS demo: iPad coming soon 

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.


Gallery Wall: I will complete my M.F.A. thesis project and exhibit the work from March 20–30, 2018 in the University Galleries at the University of Florida. The reception will be Friday, March 23, 2018 from 7–9PM. The exhibition will introduce Spero. The wall is 209.5″ × 91″.

Display mockup: proper Spanish, Korean, and Arabic translations for quotes and stats coming soon. This adhesive vinyl graphic will cover the wall. Two pedestals, one supporting an iPad Air and one supporting an iPad Air and an Android smartphone, will exhibit the website and app demos of retiree and refugee Spero app user experiences.Rapid Prototypes: sketches for the exhibit


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.


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.