How to Design for
the Elderly

And why it should be #1 on your to-do list.

By Annet Kloprogge
Strategist at VBAT

Imagine yourself being 65 years old. What would your life be like? Are you still able to do all the things you’re doing right now?

Big chance that your fingers don’t like the small buttons on your phone, the font on your screen seems to be getting smaller and you keep on forgetting what that nice bakery was called again.

These aren’t hard problems to solve. But with all the start-ups runned by and revolving around Generation X (18 to 35-year-olds), it’s a generation that becomes easy to forget.

And guess what.. Forgetting about this generation might be one of the biggest mistakes you will make in your life because, in a report filed by the European Commission, the following is stated:

“Notably, the share of those aged 15–64 is projected to decline from 67% to 56% by 2060. The share of those aged 65 and over is projected to rise from 17% to 30%. As a consequence, the EU would move from having four people of working age to each person aged over 65 years to about two people of working-age.”

My conclusion: stop focussing on teenagers and start paying attention to the elderly. That’s where the real action is and will be in the coming years.

Here are a few concepts that already got the message:

Handy Handles

For most pedestrians, a long wait at a light is an inconvenience, but for the elderly, standing for an extended time at an intersection can take more of a toll. IDEO Singapore proposed an intriguing solution to this common problem: pit stop posts. These cane-like posts could be installed in busy urban areas to give seniors a spot to rest, catch their balance while stepping off the curb, or hang shopping bags while waiting for the walk signal or public transportation. (by Humana)

Innovative Utensil

The Liftware spoon was originally designed for Parkinson’s patients, but this creative solution to living with hand tremors could equally come in handy for the elderly. The spoon’s handle is a little bit chunkier, and it houses a motion sensor. The spoon “senses” tremors when it’s picked up and moves to cancel them out; in a clinical trial, the utensil canceled out more than 70 percent of users’ tremors.

UK’s Design Council: Coping with Dementia

Design council decided to use design talent to invent and develop new systems, processes, products and services to increase wellbeing, to help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and to help people stay in their own homes.

Creating a care system that is more personalised, more connected and more preventative. Here are a few outcomes:

The Buddiband high-tech personal alarm system can be worn seamlessly around the wrist. It has GPS tracking that aims to provide security and confidence for people living with dementia to go out.

Trading Times is a web-based service that matches people who care for those with dementia with local businesses for flexible paid work, providing opportunities to earn and stay connected with society.

Loss of appetite is a common problem with late stages of dementia. Ode is a system where a special fragrance is released throughout the day to stimulate appetite.

Speaking Exchange

Students want to practice English, and elderly people someone to talk to. Therefore, Speaking Exchange created a way for them to meet each other: an educational project that connects students and seniors over the Internet.

This last example is especially great because it serves multiple age groups and helps both in an equal opportunity.

This article also featured some great tips in designing for a generation and age that you perhaps don’t understand that well.

Let’s do this! Please inform me if you’re working on something related to this topic by contacting me through Twitter, love to talk more about this topic.

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Annet is a Hyper Island alumni, currently living in Amsterdam and working as a Brand Strategist.
Also gives workshops in various creative methods, productivity & team development.