Last week I went to the University of Brighton to catch up with the students entering our “Designing for the Future” competition. This is the second year we have run this competition which encourages young designers to design a new product which addresses one or more of the challenges associated with ageing and people living longer.
The stereotyping of the demographic profile of “older people” has often switched off the designer response to this subject and resulted in the production of dreary and institutionalised products. However, current technological, scientific, economic and design research demonstrate that this is both a misunderstood market and a route into some of the most provocative, relevant and future-gazing challenges, themes and subjects which face modern society.
I am pleased to report that the Brighton students are fully switched on to this design area and are working on a diverse range of projects looking at issues such as inheritance, memory, death and memorial as well as seeking to resolve problems arising out of loneliness, restricted mobility and keeping warm.
It was good to see that so many of them had taken time to speak to older people about their lives – it is always something of a stretch for students in their early 20s to imagine the challenges of being older.
We are back next month to judge the final entries.