Although the results of the 2021 census show that 18.6% of the UK population was aged 65 or over, “all too often the needs of older audiences are overlooked by companies and designers,” says Josephine Chanter, Director of Audiences at the Design Museum, im Ahead the opening of a new display that explores design to improve later life.
Designing for our Future Selves opens at the museum on February 24 and includes 10 new designs targeting areas such as housing, health and work currently being developed by the Design Age Institute and its partners.
Contextualized by issues that current and future generations face as they age – with better health, financial security and technological know-how coupled with job losses to automation, the climate emergency, increased living costs and a growing risk of global pandemics – the projects do not seem to be exist only to provide solutions for “our future selves,” but to “radically rethink,” according to the museum, stages of life such as education, employment, and retirement.
Redesign baby walker
A commission for The Hamlyn Walker Challenge aims to remove the stigma attached to rollators or rollators, which Lady Helen Hamlyn, Patron of the Helen Hamlyn Center for Design at the Royal College of Art, described as “the most degrading object we can give someone is being described”.
Product designer Michael Strantz proposed a single wheeled frame for a rollator and related scooter-like designs to meet the needs of different generations. Strantz is now working with PriestmanGoode and user groups to explore further possibilities within the concept.
Design Age Institute designer-in-residence Roseanne Wakely worked with the UK’s National Innovation Center for Aging and its citizen research network Voice, banking professionals and users to reinvent banking services for later life. The transition to a cashless society and the closure of high street branches that offered traditional banking services mean that new solutions are needed to offer greater confidence and security and to meet the unique financial needs of people as they age.
Tides is a full body massager used to increase blood flow and keep tissues healthy with added benefits such as relaxation, improved sleep and pleasure. Cellule Studio’s Salome Bazin and Giula Tomasello developed the product for people going through the menopause to tighten the pelvic floor muscles as the body ages. Unlike related products, Tides is non-penetrative, non-genitally targeted and utilizes vibration technologies.
Developed by Walk with Path founder Lise Pape after her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, IntellAge is an intelligent insole system that tracks mobility and gait with sensors. By feeding back real-time information and prompts to an app, the product hopes to give users an understanding of their gait and reduce the risk of falls.
Other designs include a desirable and functional stand-up chair that allows people to move easily from sitting to standing; a naturally insulated housecoat engineered for reduced tolerance to cold temperatures; a living/working area to support older people in the world of work; a portable, accessible and discreet incontinence device; light installations to improve circadian rhythms that affect mood, sleep, hormone secretion and temperature regulation; and the November 2022 Petition for Inclusive Packaging Standards.
The exhibits will also share the process of design development and co-creation with users through audio and video content, prototypes, materials, sketches and consulting feedback and user experiences, as well as films by Chocolate Films that delve deeper into the stories and experiences of older communities .
Colum Lowe, director of the Design Age Institute, says: “By designing for our future selves, we can explore how design innovations could improve our lives as we age. The exhibition will open up this dialogue to a younger audience who may not have wondered what it means to grow older in today’s society, what the potential challenges are ahead of us and how we are trying to solve them.”
Designing for our Future Selves is on view from February 24th to March 26th 2023 at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG. Banner image features Hamlyn Walker, credit Michael Strantz.