That’s So Not Cool: Introducing Students to Elder Design

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To develop effective design solutions for end users whose life experiences, health, mobility, and cognitive functions are significantly different to our own, we must recognize and challenge our assumptions about those users. When we set out to inspire novice designers to practice in a field widely considered as he height of ‘uncool’, we also challenge beliefs about the nature of design itself. Introducing young novice designers to ‘Elder Design, (ED) i.e. design responses to the needs of people over the age of 65, achieves both these goals. It also meets a rapidly ageing society’s requirement for designers with an understanding of this user group. This paper presents an analysis of a graduating student’s design for a chair intended for residents’ use in a residential aged care facility (RACF) in south-western Sydney). Effective design solutions in this area require a multidisciplinary approach involving an understanding of environment-behaviour relationships, the ageing process, dementia, nursing practices, operations research, and ergonomic design for user groups with highly specific (but varied) needs. In addition to the end users, ED introduces students to clients such as RACF operators, who are themselves experiencing rapid change in the types of the services they provide and the care models which inform them. In this context, effective problemsolving begins with problem identification -- for all parties. Evaluated via interview and the analysis of design outcomes, the project provides an insight into possible approaches to developing education for user-centred design solutions across many fields.
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Garbutt, Michael
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