Designing For An Ageing Society

From Friday 24th February to Sunday 26th March 2023 The Design Museum and Design Age Institute present Designing for our Future Selves, a new display that invites visitors to explore the ways innovation and design are responding to the needs, interests and aspirations of an ageing society, and indeed, their own future selves.

The display will be showcased in the atrium of the Design Museum in Kensington, London, from 24 February to 26 March 2023 and builds on last year’s successful Future of Ageing display, reminding us that the one thing we all have in common is that we are all getting older – no matter our age.

The 21st century is shaping up to be a century of centenarians. Someone born in the developed world in the year 2000 will have a 50% chance of living to 100 or beyond.

With more of us living longer, an increasing proportion of the UK’s population will become part of an older, healthier, more financially secure, and technologically savvy demographic.

But we will also face many global challenges, including automation resulting in job losses, the climate emergency, global pandemics, and the cost of living. The traditional life stages of education, employment and retirement will need to be radically reimagined.

See also: Would You Believe It, General Health Is Getting Better?!

Designing for our Future Selves will showcase how, in a changing world, cutting-edge design can help ageing people to not only live their later years independently, sustainably and healthily but also with joy and fulfilment. Visitors will gain a unique insight into the process of design development and co-creation between designers and users. They will have the opportunity to explore research and design projects through video and audio content, consultation feedback, design concepts, prototypes, materials, sketches and user experience.


Immersive and multi-sensory elements, alongside an interactive learning programme, will explore the diverse stories and experiences of older communities.

Colum Lowe, Director, Design Age Institute said: “Designing for our Future Selves allows us to explore how design innovation could improve our lives as we grow older. The exhibition will open this dialogue up to younger audiences who may not have questioned what it means to grow older in today’s society, the potential challenges that lie ahead and how we seek to solve them.”

Josephine Chanter, Director of Audiences at the Design Museum said: “The needs of older audiences are distinct and all too often overlooked by companies and designers. These ten projects represent ideas and prototypes that open up the possibility of how we can all age with more agency and joy. We hope all our visitors will leave inspired by how designers can enhance the quality of our lives regardless of our age.”

What’s in the display

The display showcases 10 new cutting-edge design initiatives currently being developed by Design Age Institute and its partners, all of which will positively impact people’s homes, health and work as they grow older.


Redesigning the walker

Lady Helen Hamlyn, Patron of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, described the walking frame or ‘walker’ as “the most degrading object that we can give to anybody”. Walkers are functional products, but highly medicalised and stigmatised, so many people who would most benefit from using them abandon, avoid or postpone getting one, compromising their mobility.

Confident that good design can shift the negative stigma of walking frames, Lady Hamlyn commissioned Design Age Institute to launch The Hamlyn Walker Challenge.

Product designer Michael Strantz’s winning proposal was for a single frame that can meet the needs of different generations. Strantz is now working with design agency Priestman Goode and user groups to explore further possibilities and continue to challenge the current stigma about walking frames.


Smart insoles for active ageing

IntellAge is a smart insole system for daily use. It aims to keep users active and safe by digitally tracking mobility and gait through a smart sensor system that feeds data into an app. By connecting users to real-time information and prompts, they can improve their understanding of gait and mitigate the risk of falls. Created by Walk with Path, the project was inspired by founder Lise Pape’s experience of her father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, and its impact on his independence, mobility and wellbeing.


Sensuality for women for a lifetime

By 2025, over a billion women globally will be experiencing menopause. Tides is a whole body massager designed to be used as part of a self-care routine. It is a long term therapy option to tone the pelvic floor muscle and stimulate blood flow during a key period of life where the body changes and evolves. Most importantly, Tides is non-penetrative and non-genital focused. Designed by Salome Bazin, founder of Cellule Studio in collaboration with Giulia Tomasello, Tides uses vibration technologies to support menopausal women, offering incredible benefits such as relaxation, pleasure and improved sleep by increasing blood flow and keeping tissue healthy and oxygenated.


Staying warm, sustainably, at home

Older people are some of the most vulnerable people affected by the current UK energy crisis. As people age, they have less tolerance to cold temperatures which can significantly impact their health and independence. Coaroon, which takes its name from ‘cocoon coat’ and from the Scottish word ‘coorie’ meaning cuddle, is a garment for the home that supports an individual’s freedom of movement, while sustaining an even body temperature across a range of everyday activities, from reading, to working, to cooking.


Live/workspace for later life

More and more people are extending their working lives, and older workers represent a valuable source of experience, talent and financial contribution to the economy. Flexible working is key to keeping older people in the workforce.

However, while many are increasingly working from home, few homes are designed to support healthy, independent and active living and working beyond the traditional retirement age.

Home Office to Age in Place brings together architects, designers for ageing and digital designers from Northumbria University, along with furniture designers from Pentagram, the world’s largest independent design consultancy. Together they have created a purpose-built, flexible, and supportive live-work space for older residents in South Seaham Garden Village, County Durham for Karbon Homes.


Freedom from incontinence

Urinary incontinence, meaning to pass urine unintentionally, is a common condition in later life. According to Incontinence UK, An estimated 2.4 million people over 65 in the UK experience incontinence, which negatively impacts their health and wellbeing and that of their families every day. Luii hand-held urinals, created by Binding Sciences Limited, enable both able-bodied users and those with reduced mobility or dexterity to manage incontinence discreetly and flexibly, maintaining their independence and quality of life.


A chair that enables sitting and standing

Riser Chair aims to assist users with sitting and standing while being a beautiful piece of furniture that people will not only need but will want in their homes and offices. Creator Ali Jafari, founder of Designed Healthcare Ltd based at Innovation Studio Arts University Bournemouth, was inspired to create Riser Chair by his experience as a nurse assisting patients to sit and stand.


An immersive light installation

Circadian rhythms – sleep-wake cycles that follow the sun – constantly change during people’s lifetimes. Between the ages of 60 to 65 they start earlier and continue to shift by half an hour each decade. Light Cycle explores how light and darkness can promote greater health and happiness in later life by improving circadian rhythms to support mood, sleep patterns, temperature regulation and hormone release.

The display also presents two inspiring new film commissions by Chocolate Films. A Century of Centenarians contains insightful interviews with six participants aged 50-90 sharing their views on ageing. A Postcard to Your Future Self is an animated film sharing some of the responses from visitors to The Future of Ageing display about their aspirations and worries for their future selves.

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