DTI report points out Age Shift to designers

Design for an increasingly ageing population went higher up the political agenda last week, with the publication of a new Department of Trade and Industry report setting out design solutions.

The publication follows the launch last week of a collaborative Design Challenge by the Design Business Association and Helen Hamlyn Research Centre into designs for the disabled, several of which would be equally applicable to older people (DW 8 December).

Bearing in mind that more than half the population will be aged 50 or over by the year 2025, the report, The Age Shift – Priorities for Action, proposes initiatives for ensuring that designers address the needs of the older consumer.

The goal, it says, should be to design a built environment, products and services that cater for the specific requirements of older people, while also appealing to the needs of other age groups, says the report.

The technologically smart homes of the future should promote e-commerce as well as maintaining independent living for older people through the use of devices such as telemonitoring and tele-medicine.

New interactive interfaces with computers should develop the applications of IT and increase its take-up by the elderly.

The report also advises employers to anticipate an increasingly older workforce, some with disabilities, and to design information infrastructures appropriate to their needs.

To this end, businesses should work with educational institutions to ensure that ageing issues are included in policies designed to facilitate technology transfer.

Roger Coleman, co-director of the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre, said the report opened up a whole new design agenda and identified future areas of work in design provisions for the elderly. “It shows how design can deliver in terms of quality of life,” he said. “Design as an enabler is a hugely powerful force.”

The Age Shift – Priorities for Action is available to view on www.foresight.gov.uk.

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