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    A New Design Era A NEW DESIGN ERA
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Tomorrow's product and environmental designs must respond to our aging population's emerging 'age-in-place' consumer market...



We are living in a unique period. Never before in the history of our planet has the world contained so many older people—or such a large percentage of them.



 Design as an Agent of Change

AS WE ENTER THE 21st CENTURY, designers and marketers will continue to shape the environmental context within which millions of today's aging consumers will live, work, and play.

The question is, will manufacturers and builders continue to produce products and living environments that discriminate against age and disability—or—will the growing demands of our exploding aging ignite a conscious effort to eliminate the design barriers, which have, for too long, deprived too many of their dignity and indepndence?

It's ironic that the very technology that prolongs the life of our aging friends and relatives, also yields frustrating consumer products and environments that rob them of their status, their roles, their independence, their self-respect.

For too long, people of all ages and abilities have had to adapt both body and mind to those "cool," but callous, youth-targeted products and environments designed to dispense short term pleasure and status at the cost of human- sensitive, long term, physical and sensory accommodation.

The design community carries a pivotal responsibility for correcting the problem. As it starts to shape the next generation of homes and products, a new priority —transgenerational accommodation—must augment the past's "aesthetics only" concern that drives much of today's unseemly design and marketing energy.



 A New Consumer Mind-Set

WE'RE ON THE THRESHOLD of a new design era that acknowledges and addresses the aging population's search for environmental equality. A ground swell of demand for intelligent is being heard throughout the world—and it's signaling the beginning of the end of descrimination by design. The race has begun.

Today, 50 million middle-aged, the driving force behind yesterday's youth culture, are racing toward the threshold of senior citizenship. By 2012, the first wave will startcrossing the line.

Their collective demands for age-accommodating will spark a dramatic transformation of our products and environments, houses and workplaces, transportation systems—even our playgrounds and recreational facilities.

As they start adding to today's 36 million Americans age 65 and older, their swelling numbers are forming a powerful creating a sea-change in demand for age-sensitive, age-friendly, age-accessible consumer products and environment.

The key issue: persuading designers, architects, manufacturers and home builders to end discrimination by design.

 
 


 Ending Discrimination by Design

Every day, shoppers of all ages and abilities, browse the malls and stores and experience discrimination by design. They respond defensively, rejecting products and environments that stereotype and patronize them by inferring "old age" or "disability."

By contrast, attractive transgenerational designs accommodate rather than discriminate; sympathize rather than stigmatize; and innovate rather than replicate. Such designs appeal to young and older users.

They do this by:

  • bridging the transitions across life's stages
  • responding to the widest range of individual differences and abilities
  • helping people of all ages and abilities remain active and independent
  • adapting to changing sensory and physical needs
  • maintaining one's dignity and self respect
  • enabling us to choose the appropriate means to accomplish our activities of daily living.  

This is why transgeneratonal design is so important. It removes environmental barriers, extends independent living, provides wider options, offers greater choices, and extends the quality of life for all—and at no group's expense.

 

   


 What's required?

We need a new mindset—a new generation of age-and-ability-sensitive living environments and household products. We need a new crop of designs that are safe, comfortable, convenient, adjustable and easily used by a diverse "transgenerational" population.

Think about where you live—the products you use. How often do you become frustrated as you go about your daily tasks? Have you ever raised a blister? Sprained an ankle? Cut a finger? Broken a bone? Become pregnant? How well does the design of your house and your products really serve your needs?

After purchasing your last "cool," "enticing," "fashionable" product, how soon did its in-store promise of comfort and convenience morphe into curses of pain, anger, fatigue and frustration?

The bottom  line: shouldn't your home and its products—furniture, appliances, cabinetry, computers, kitchen utensils, bathroom fixtures, flooring, hand tools, lighting, etc.—be just as easily used by an arthritic grandfather, a teenager with a broken ankle, a Baby Boomer in a wheelchair, a veteran with one arm, or even a pregnant 20-something bride with poor eyesight?

Of course they should!



 How can you help?

THERE ARE MANY WAYS:

  1. Refuse to promote, support, and reinforce the past's insidious and erroneous myths about age and aging.

  2. De-emphasize any design's association with such terms as "old people," "disability," or "the handicaped." Such demeaning or stigmatizing connotations cause such products or services to be avoided or rejected by the very group they are intended to attract..

  3. Expand the potential for transgenerational design to include such wider societal and environmental sectors as recreation, communication, public housing, mass transportation, indoor air quality, lighting and noise control.

  4. Reject suggestions that transgenerational design comes only at a premium. There should be no, or very little, difference in cost between a product that works for all and a product that only works for a few.

  5. Establish design for all ages and abilities as a required element of design education and core value throughout the professional design community.

Competition to attract this market will intensitify. Transgenerational design is the emerging option for marketing to people of all ages and abilities.

 

   

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