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Living Values

Making advance care planning relevant and accessible.

Everyone deserves dignity—in life and after they die. Living Values is a design research effort to empower underrepresented communities to record advance care planning decisions for their last days and beyond.



The Living Values team is a group of university and community researchers who believe that everyone deserves dignity and are interested in in removing barriers to end-of-life discussions and planning for all people.

Every day, we all make decisions. Small ones. Big ones.
  • Take time off from work to be in a best friend's wedding?
  • Which bills to pay this month and which to delay?
  • How to get the kids to school this week?
Some decisions can be made easily while others are tougher and require a lot of thought. Either way, making decisions is a big part of daily life.
Planning Ahead
Future events are hard to predict, including the last days of life.
  • Living with diabetes.
  • A motorcycle accident causes life-threatening injuries.
  • Travel with a good friend during retirement.
Everybody dies, and thinking about what could happen can be scary. Some things can be planned but sometimes life takes surprising turns.
Personal Touches
Decisions for a person's last days are complicated and personal. They can include medical, financial, spiritual, and relationship matters.
  • Level of medical treatment to receive.
  • Who should care for surviving children.
  • Memorial ceremony preferences.
These decisions clarify what should happen during a person's last days and the ones after their body dies.
Unique Needs, Dignity for All
Everybody deserves to have their personal choices for the end of their lives honored.
  • No matter how much money they have or make.
  • Regardless of how people identify themselves and whom they choose to love.
  • Any race, ethnicity, or cultural heritage.
We all have different stories, different preferences, and different ways of seeing the world. This uniqueness matters during life and also after it.
Take Time to Choose
Starting early by setting goals, values, and priorities for living can help make decisions for one's last days easier to make.
  • Please make sure our children get our money and things.
  • If I can't talk, I want my partner to know I love him forever.
  • I'd like to be at home and comfortable if my body can not be healed.
Thinking about and recording how you want to live is important. If these are not shared, then no one will know.
A Great Need
Most Americans haven’t made these decisions for living. They often don’t know where to start and the process can be confusing.
Through the Living Values research project, we hope to learn what keeps people from starting and how to create meaningful solutions that can help.

The Study In Three Steps

Through three phases of research, we hope to find ways people feel most comfortable recording their decisions for their last days.

Discover Barriers & Opportunities

Talk with people from different walks of life to discover how they feel about recording their wishes, what may prevent them from doing so, and what kinds of decisions matter to them.

Create Solutions with Communities

Host design thinking workshops where community members will use design thinking methods to co-create solutions they feel are relevant and meaningful.


Test Solutions

Invite community members to use the prototypes created in workshops then record and share if and how they increased the likelihood of recording and updating their decisions.

Why Design?

Designing is more than making things look good and function well. Here's why we're applying design thinking and doing to explore this topic.

A Systemic Approach

End-of-life matters are complex systems where medical care, community gatherings, religious groups, and personal support networks all intertwine. Systemic design considers tangible and intangible aspects when addressing problems.


Producing and Testing Solutions

Designing involves thinking and doing. This approach allows us to produce real prototypes to test and learn from so a future where all peoples' wishes are documented and honored may be more likely.

Experience-Focused Design Outcomes

A smartphone app or a fancy brochure alone are probably not going to impact this issue. Experience-focused design includes the design of services, interior and exterior spaces, and other immersive outcomes that engage the senses.

Project Team

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Jennifer Heston-Mullins
Miami University
Dennis Cheatham
Miami University
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Cate Sherron
Thomas More University

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