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DESIGNING HOMES FOR THE ‘THIRD AGE’

Our panel discussion during Design London examined how design needs to adapt the home for an ageing population and explored how the industry needs to accommodate this often-ignored but growing demographic.

DESIGNING FOR AN AGEING POPULATION

At Design London, the leading contemporary design fair during the London Design Festival 2022, three high-profile panelists discussed topics inspired by Aritco’s trend report, Redefining the Home for the Third Age, produced in collaboration with innovations platform Springwise.

Design writer and curator Riya Patel moderated the talk between the three panelists –  David Schill, Marketing Director of Aritco; Colum Lowe, Director of Design Age Institute, the UK’s strategic unit for healthy ageing; and Kyle Scorgie, Project Head at multidisciplinary design consultancy PriestmanGoode which specializes in transport, aviation, product and environmental design.

WHAT IS THE ‘THIRD AGE’?

We are all ageing. By 2050, over two billion people in the world, or one in five of us, will be aged 60 or over. The marketing term ‘third age’ includes anyone over the age of 50, but someone who is 55 will have little in common with someone who is 95 years old. The panelists agreed that age is more than just a number. It is often associated with disability and frailty, and yet 75% of people over 65 won’t have any, or very few, physical impairments. At the same time, accidents and illness can happen at any age, triggering changes in physical, economic, social and mental status. Design needs to accommodate these transitions in life stages from concept stage.

HOW SHOULD DESIGN EVOLVE?

We all appreciate design throughout our lives. In fact, older people are canny, discerning consumers as are they are more likely to seek out quality products, invest in their homes and are statistically more likely to care about sustainability. They also have huge spending power. In the next couple of decades, experts predict that adults aged over 55 will account for 63p out of every pound spent in the UK.

The panelists agreed that ageism is rife in design, marketing, advertising and manufacturing. As diversity and inclusion becomes prevalent across all sectors, designers need to create age-inclusive homes and products that can accommodate changing tastes and needs which can be modified over time so that they remain useful. They need to design for their future selves – it’s in their own self-interest.

The Scooter for Life, designed by PriestmanGoode, for example, can be used throughout a whole lifetime and the choice of colors and materials tackles the stigma of traditional mobility aids.

HOW CAN WE FUTURE-PROOF OUR HOMES AS WE AGE?

Offices, retail spaces and even furniture are designed with the flexibility to accommodate multiple uses. Homes need to be designed in a similar way, and architects, house builders and designers in the UK are lagging behind the rest of Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that houses need to be adaptable for working as well as living – even in retirement we will need spaces to manage admin. Culturally, we have a lot to learn from multi-generational households which are common in Asia and the Middle East and becoming increasingly prominent in the West.

The pandemic also accelerated the use of technology amongst older people, but the panelists agreed that digitalization still has to evolve so that it becomes entirely intuitive. Designers need to embrace new materials and functionality to make technology completely accessible. A prime example is the smart cushion included in the Springwise trend report that links various applications including calendar, messaging, video calls, music and photos but is purely decorative when turned over.

One of the many strengths of older people is that they have empathy as they have done most things at least once. Designers need to learn from them and look beyond their own wants and needs when creating new products and spaces

Watch the Aritco Talk here:

 

 

 

 

CN

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