The UK is getting older. The first baby boomers born after the Second World War are now drawing their pensions and the number of people over pension age is overtaking the number of children. And these baby boomers are very different to the generations that went before: they will live longer and are more likely to have money to spend. Age UK calculates older people’s spending power to be worth a staggering £250 billion a year.
Like all groups of people, older people are not all the same but encompass all categories of wealth, health and education. But they do all have something in common. As we get older, we all experience, to a greater or lesser degree, a decline in short-term memory, failing eyesight and problems with manual dexterity.
So, the combination of the size and wealth of this market must mean, then, that there is a wide range of well designed products available which will help us seamlessly deal with the inconveniences of getting older, right? Wrong. Perhaps because previous generations were not an affluent consumer group, good design in this area is often woefully lacking. Search online for mobility aids and you will turn up pages of dull, clinical equipment which looks as if it ought to be in a hospital. How depressing. As we get older we often spend more time than we would like in doctors waiting rooms in any event without wanting to replicate that environment in our own homes.
So what’s to be done? There are some good products on the market which people need to know about. The OXO Good Grips range of kitchen and garden tools are a perfect example of thoughtful design. The designer behind OXO initially developed the range in response to his wife’s difficulty in gripping ordinary kitchen tools, due to arthritis in her hands. What resulted was a range of tools which everyone could use comfortably.
Another husband and wife team came up with the idea of Healthy Back Bags – good looking, stylish bags which distribute the weight evenly so reducing the straining on back and shoulders.
More quirky designs include two handled teapots and mugs.
However, more work is needed in this area. Young design students need to be encouraged to think about, and design for, their future selves. Put this way they are unlikely to come up with the dull and stigmatising products which are unfortunately so prevalent today.
Philippa Aldrich is the founder of The Future Perfect Company which sells well designed, innovative and practical products for people getting older. www.thefutureperfectcompany.comTags: baby boomers, products for older people