go granny, go granny, go

So, here’s a moment for me to be rather honest:
I am not excited about this project and I’m having difficulty thinking about it because growing old is one of my fears. I know its natural and normal to be old, but I am in no way looking forward to it so I don’t like thinking about it or discussing it. Not to say I don’t love older people; my family is great, and all power to them for being so vibrant and healthy and wonderful (my grandfather is one of my heroes for being so brave and so vigilent, and my great grandmother is 99 and freaking awesome). I’m just personally disgusted at the thought of my body falling apart more than it already has…

But in an attempt to get down to business:
What is “aging in place”? How can design allow older adults to live independently longer?
Can products be assistive and enjoyable to use?
How does one go about using research to develop ideas and goals for design?
How can we make an “anti-product”? How can we make products that prevent the problems older people face, instead of assisting them? What can we create that solves problems without feature creeping all over the place? HOW do we think of new things without simply “improving” existing ideas and solutions? What can we do that isn’t just QVC and Sharper Image junk?

“Aging in place” to me means being able to grow older in one continual environment (not to say that the home won’t change and grow with the resident). Design can of course allow older adults to live independently longer! Great design can do almost anything. Products can be assistive and enjoyable, but it really depends upon the branding and the marketing. Someone that’s having an issue of some sort normally doesn’t want to admit that they’re having a problem (the idea of my father not wanting to go to the doctor unless something is seriously wrong or bleeding profusely pops into my head), so the way that a product “assists” the person has to be finely balanced between being assistive, adaptive, and enabling. The customer should be helped by the product, not made to feel helpless without it. Research enables a designer to “benchmark” [oh yes, that IS a materials term!] by seeing what’s previously been done well and what could be done better to solve a problem. By looking at what problems currently exist for elderly and aging people, we can more efficiently solve their problems through solutions that have already been proven to work + innovation and creativity.
“Anti-products” and ways to prevent problems, instead of simply assist already existing problems are clearly a better alternative than feature-creeping an all-terrain walker-thingy with rocket boots and a laser pointer and a wireless GPS system with a robot arm, etc…
But I haven’t condensed my thoughts down to a simple list of “problems” to which I can start creating “anti-products” or preventative solutions (although, that is what I’m hoping for eventually [eventually being in the near, near future])
I think the simplest way to create real solutions is to shave the problem down to the simplest issues. What is really the problem with the vacuum – is it the product, or the fact that Granny’s wrist hurts when she moves it across the living room all day?
And to make sure things aren’t simply QVC-esque, its vital to create solutions that are really affordable and not just re-makes of prior mistakes.

So what problems do aging people face?
Losing things, forgetting things, needed so many things to “assist” them [tri-focal glasses, magnifying glasses, hearing aids, medicine, etc.], deteriorating health (teeth, eyes, wrinkly skin, grey hair, overall health, brittle nails, crappy cardiovascular systems, osteoporosis ), trying to keep up with or adapt to rapidly changing technology [cell phones, internet, wireless, laptops and what-not], transportation and mobility [walking and/or driving], cleaning around the house…
I know that exercise is hard to maintain, and that its difficult to see things in strange lighting outside of the house, too.

But what problems do aging people face that directly coincides with living and/or their homes?
I’m still thinking.

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One thought on “go granny, go granny, go

  1. id3011b says:

    your head is in the right place, and that is the most important part of a successful path through this development maze.

    I want you to brainstorm on what you pointed out in your first paragraphs, your fear of aging. This is something you feel is so intimately linked to you, but also is a very real and widely shared feeling. How can product designers develop ideas that reduce your fear of aging? Is it even a problem that a field outside of religion or spirituality can begin to solve?

    What makes these fears real, how do they manifest? Use your powers as a designer to communicate calming and compassionate solutions to these innate terrors.

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