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Product design – the next step for the independent living market

A year ago, the emerging independent living market was grappling with the dual challenges of raising awareness of the products available to help people live independently and convincing consumers of the benefits of products which often had negative associations.

This time last year there seemed to be 4 models:

1. “Trip- Advisor” style consumer-led rating system such as that proposed by consultants, Years Ahead

2. Certification system such as Age UK’s Engage Accreditation system

3. Online communities such as Enabled by Design  which is “a social business and community of people who are passionate about Design for All” who share advice and swop product information.

4. New kinds of trade associations.

Since then it is the online communities which have proliferated with new websites such as Blue Badge Style,  and Really Useful Stuff  being launched. These new sites offer a combination of editorial and user reviews and many have Amazon affiliate links.

It is great to see this new enthusiasm for independent living products and especially the recognition that people should be able to source good attractive designs.

What is however becoming clear is that there are relatively few attractively designed products available and the next step is to encourage more designers to focus on this growing market.

Also, increasingly there is a recognition that living well as we get older is not just about having the right gadgets or being “independent”. The next generation of independent living products will be about enhancing quality of life – exploring our interconnectivity and mutual interdependence or devising products to help us capture and recall our memories or facilitate multigenerational living.

This is where projects like our Designing for the Future competition with the University of Brighton come in. As the project evolves, we are looking for more ways to support and champion designers and innovative businesses. If you are interested in getting involved, contact me at