So what do you call older people?

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NPR reporter on aging, Ina Jaffe, recently discussed a poll that asked – what to call the people that she covers in her articles. In summary, there was more enthusiasm for terms that were despised than enthusiasm for any term that people really liked.

The experience of aging has certainly changed, but our vocabulary to reflect that change has fallen short. Life expectancy is increasing along with the quality of life, and retirement is getting pushed to the horizon as “…nearly three quarters of baby boomers plan to continue working during their so-called retirement years.”

Perhaps we should ask the opinion of J.K Rowling, author of the popular Harry Potter series, who might modify her description of Lord Voldemort and offer us the term ” The-Experience-That-Can’t-Be-Named.” The vocabulary may not be available to describe the experience of later life but the opportunities to personalize and redefine it are available and growing. Let’s not stop the transformation and wait.  Keep transforming.


Older Adult – Acceptable with no enthusiasm

Elder – Most respectful

Senior – Fine

Geezer, old-timer, elderly – Obviously despised



Senior citizen – Forget that!

Positive Aging/Successful Aging – Thumbs down

Retirement – On its way out

Seth’s Blog: Thoughts on HugDug

Seth’s Blog: Thoughts on HugDug

From the POV of an adult caregiver or someone who is seeking support to adjust to a later-life stage in order to maintain independence; finding that specific support service – especially if family and friends are not available or even your first choice – can be challenging or almost impossible

4826835586_c4c0905309_zWhat could HugDug mean to you?

Recently Seth Godin announced HugDug, “…a place where you could help people discover stuff they didn’t even know they were looking for?”

I applaud the mission, the design and notably that half of their profits will go to charitable organizations.

But things from Amazon come in boxes and community-based care services for older adults, or those managing a transition from hospital to home, need the services of people not products in boxes.

Right now you can filter your product search on HugDug by: All Products, Apparel, Automotive, Baby, etc. What if we could insert the category “Age In Place” to find not only useful products but helpful local services that other recommend and endorse. For example very similar to the list of trusted service providers that the Beacon Hill Village, a member-driven organization for Boston residents 50 and over offers. In addition to access to recommended providers your purchase goes to help out others in such programs the Safe At Home program from Rebuilding Together in Oakland, CA. 

How might we (HMW) create a platform that makes it easy to raise your hand for help, reach out to offer assistance and  manage the ebb and flow of daily living needs at home?


Courtyard by Marriot Redesigned Around Customer

Mark Hurst of Good Experience interviewed Brian King, VP & global brand manager of Courtyard by Marriott to understand the process and goals of the redesign of the hotel lobby around their target customer segment, the frequent business traveler. This project is a recommended case study and a call to action for senior living communities and facilities to listen to current and prospective residents in order to meet their evolving physical and emotional needs. The full interview is a must read and can be found here.

It was interesting to learn “…the laptop is the center of the business traveler’s life and should be the center of the design innovation.”  What is at the center of your customer’s life?  Is it an object or a lifestyle; a variety of social events, opportunities to be active, a mix of private and public space, or a support network of heathcare options? Find what is most important to your target market and use that as the guide for ongoing innovation. Some of the other key learning points of the redesign of Courtyard hotels that could be applied to senior living communities are:

  • Flexible, movable furniture to customize how the public space is used from a communal table to private quiet areas.
  • A physical environment and service options that is under each persons control and offers a high level of choice; a variety of food options and highly flexible meal time schedule.
  • A lobby that is a destination as opposed to being a mediocre pass through to secluded rooms.
Dedicated technology stations. Modular furniture for a flexible public space. Modernized bulletin board for pertinent information.
Additional information can be found at IDEO, the innovation firm that was part of the redesign. Images from

If you won’t be traveling to one of the refreshed Courtyard properties any time soon get a feel of the new environment with this commercial.

There are many  examples of well designed lifestage communities and facilities across the continuum of care but they are far outnumbered by the quantity of poorly designed facilities that are not prepared to meet the lifestyle needs of a new generation of adults seeking innovative housing and care options.

If you really listen to your current and prospective residents what small and large scale innovations can you implement that will transform their experience?

Your Product Personified

I met Antonella, Ashley and Natasha via a New York Times article, Before Creating the Car, Ford Designs the Driver, by Phil Patton. “Antonella is an attractive 28-year old woman who lives in Rome. Her life is focused on friends and fun, clubbing and parties. Natasha is a “a tech-savvy “social achiever”” and Ashley  is “a cool mom.”

These people don’t actually exist. They are imaginary characters created by Ford Motor Company to capture the personality of intended customers of specific car models. These colorful avatars bring to life piles of statistical research and demographic data to create a shared image for everyone working to create the next hit for Ford. I find this approach is very valuable in articulating and relating to the nuanced, multifaceted demographic data of the over 40 consumer.

Age Well Character

I was inspired to define an ideal composite character for GoodDesignAgeWell.  I chose Ashley as the core character because she is described, according to Ford’s internal research documents, as a mom “who, like the vehicle, represents an update of traditional family priorities. She shops at T. J. Maxx, H&M and Target  and“friends are part of her family.””  The concept van also fits the vision of a family vehicle that is designed well and integrates lo-tech and hi-tech concepts that make daily life better;  built-in hand sanitizer and sunscreen dispensers, storage hooks to transport scooters and strollers, large underfloor storage, constant Web access, and an RFID electronic tagging system to track, via the onboard computer, important items you don’t want to forget or lose.

In addition to Ashely,  I see GoodDesignAgeWell is more than a single character, it is a family of personalities.  Building upon the Ford research I believe Ashley’s family shares similar values and attributes across multiple generations and most notably, family members are also friends.

multigenerational family

I also put greater importance on the role Ashley plays as the family medical manager and wellness coach.  Her focus on safety and wellness is illustrated well with the photo of the concept van with Harry Allen’s International Design Magazine (I.D.) 2009 packaging award winning first aid kit for Johnson & Johnson. Available at for $18.49

Ford First Aid Kit

Other Key Points on the Value of a Persona:

•    Personalizes the ideal buyer
•    Articulates common values and attitudes across boundaries of nation and language
•    Equally effective for concepts and for products in production
•    Importance of pleasure and preference in buying choices vs. older, rational models of buyer behavior based simply on price or other hard factors.
•    Design is critical
•    “We now focus quite a bit on aspirations and dreams.”


THE GREEN HOUSE® Design Charrette


“THE GREEN HOUSE® model creates a small intentional community for a group of elders and staff. It is a place that focuses on life, and its heart is found in the relationships that flourish there. A radical departure from traditional skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities, The Green House model alters facility size, interior design, staffing patterns, and methods of delivering skilled professional services. Its primary purpose is to serve as a place where elders can receive assistance and support with activities of daily living and clinical care, without the assistance and care becoming the focus of their existence. Developed by Dr. William Thomas and rooted in the tradition of the Eden Alternative, a model for cultural change within nursing facilities, The Green House model is intended to de-institutionalize long-term care by eliminating large nursing facilities and creating habilitative, social settings.”

THE GREEN HOUSE Design Charette Winners

THE GREEN HOUSE® Project DVD Request Form

Free DVD: “Where Love Matters” (Run time is 35:35 minutes)
Highlights the successes, challenges and stories of four operating Green House® projects, as told by elders, staff, and family members. Includes an overview of The Green House model.

Lifestage Retail in Europe

Illustrations by Timmy Kucynda for Metropolis

Illustrations by Timmy Kucynda for Metropolis

kaiser2 reported on a new concept grocery store.  “The design elements of the Kaiser’s supermarket in East Berlin reveal a series of subtle details that make it clear this store is geared toward an older clientele. “Germany is the oldest country in Europe,” says Tobias Tuchlenski, manager of the Berlin region for the German supermarket conglomerate Kaiser’s Tengelmann AG.
•    Shopping carts equipped with magnifying glasses, seats and locking wheels for short rest breaks.
•    The market’s peripheral aisle is open and broad.
•    Smaller baskets have long handles and wheels.
•    Long metal steps running along the lower edge of the dairy and frozen-food cases make it easy to reach items on the top shelves.
•    Short aisles ends with a small eye-level station holding another magnifying glass and a button with which customers can summon help.
•    Shelf signs highlight products “For the Small Household,” for products suitable for single people or couples without children.

Berlin’s first senior supermarket, it is following in the footsteps of the Austrian company Adeg, which opened an Aktiv Markt +50 in Salzburg in 2003.
Indeed, shoppers of all ages can appreciate the store’s anti-slip synthetic flooring, brighter and more directed lighting, cheery pastel-yellow walls, and a checkout area that allows plenty of room for maneuvering. One particularly senior-friendly element is the foyer near the exit, which is equipped with black couches, a TV/computer screen, a watercooler, and a coin-operated massage chair. Customers can even have a taxi called for free from the adjacent bakery stand. “For a lot of older people, going to the supermarket has a social aspect. We wanted to create a ‘senior corner’ so people can meet over coffee and cake,” Tuchlenski explains.
Kaiser’s is pleased with the changes—sales are 25 percent above forecasted figures—and longtime customers are happy as well.”

Happy Meal of the Future – Available Today

As a follow-up to the November 3 entry on Wired Magazine’s Happy Meal of the future for seniors we collected existing products that could complete the menu today. We may not agree with the numerical age designation of the original Wired magazine entry, “for adults 65 and over”, but we understand that some of the items may be more relevant to physical decline of later life stages.

Beef and Asparagus by Epikura

Beef and Asparagus by Epikura

Big Mash® – EZ Chew Burger could be easily produced by Epikura’s unique technology which processes natural ingredients in order to modulate texture profiles. They are then reshaped appropriately to return the retexturized food to its natural look while preserving their true taste. Textures are modified by reducing particle sizes and by controlling firmness, cohesiveness, adhesiveness and springiness. This innovative process makes food safe and easy to swallow, especially for mild and severe dysphagia.

I sampled several dishes at the International Federation on Ageing’s 9th Global Conference and Ageing & Design Expo in September 2008. I tried a slice of ham, a ring of pineapple and chocolate cake. Every item looks and tastes as it supposed to but the texture was extremely smooth and required no chewing, which was a very strange sensory experience, especially for the slice of ham.

Vegan fries from Yellow-Sunshine.

Vegan fries from Yellow-Sunshine.

Golden Frize® – Fat Free French Fried Style Soy Product are very similar to the 100% meatless yam fries at Zen Burger in New York City or the vegan fries at Yellow-Sunshine in Berlin, Germany.

Wild Bunch & Co. premuim juices

Wild Bunch & Co. premuim juices

Senior Soft® – Lightly Carbonated Liquid Stool Softener can already be concocted with a can of 7-up and prune juice.  But drinks of the future may offer more benefits than just a healthy digestive system.  The Singaporean company, Wild Bunch & Co. sells 100% organic juice in distinctive bottles. Its seasonal menus feature a variety of pure and mixed fruit and vegetable juices, ranging from Easy Peazy (carrots, peas and parsnip) to Pineapple Zinger (pineapple and ginger).

PARO Therapeutic Robot

PARO Therapeutic Robot

Adorable “Gypsy”® – Plush Toy is a sure match for the therapeutic robot PARO which offers the documented benefits of animal therapy; improves brain function in people with cognition disorders, reduces  stress and encourages relaxation. PARO has five kinds of sensors: tactile, light, audition, temperature, and posture sensors, with which it can perceive people and its environment. PARO feels being stroked by tactile sensor, or being held by the posture sensor. Paro can also recognize the direction of voice and words such as its name, greetings, and praise with its audio sensor.  PARO responds as if it is alive, moving its head and legs, making sounds, and also imitates the voice of a real baby harp seal.

McDonald’s Happy Meal of the Future


Wired magazine is holding a contest to collect ideas and images for a McDonald’s Happy Meal of the future for Found, a popular monthly feature article that imagines what “…our world will look like in 10, 20, or 100 years.”  The Entry by Will McBill caught our attention. We will keep you posted if an image is uploaded to accompany the description. In the meantime we will scour our database to locate any existing products, that in combination, could make the Happy Senior Meal of the future available today.

Happy Meal Senior (for adults 65 and over) by Will McBill


Big Mash® – EZ Chew Burger

Golden Frize® – Fat Free French Fried Style Soy Product

Senior Soft® – Lightly Carbonated Liquid Stool Softener

Adorable “Gypsy”® – Plush Toy with Built-In GPS to Help Happy Seniors Find Their Way Home Again

Health-Aware Home Starter Package, an Artifact from the Future

In a June 9, 2006 Business 2.0 article Christopher Null writes, “Trendspotting is serious business. So much so that the Institute for the Future, a Palo Alto-based think tank, produces an annual 96-page 10-year forecast – an exhaustive compendium of societal and technological trends, widely regarded as the bellwether of long-range planning.

Just one problem: “Clients weren’t reading the reports,” admits Jason Tester, the IFTF’s research and design manager.

So, in summer 2003, Tester tried a different tack that became known as “artifacts from the future”: mocked-up products claiming to be from,” (the future).

A summary of why Institute for the Future creates artifacts. Full article here:  Artifacts from the future

First, their tangible, specific nature forces us to think hard about what we really believe.

Second, thinking about artifacts makes you think hard about the interrelationships of technological, social, economic, and cultural factors.

Third, the shift to artifacts reflects our own sense that design is going to be a critical strategic skill in the future.

Fourth, many of our clients actually make things. They already communicate with each other in a language of prototypes.

Finally, artifacts from the future are part of a larger trend in the Institute of drawing closer lines between our research/brainstorming methods, and the media we use to communicate our ideas.

Personal Mobility Concept from Toyota


TOYOTA i-REAL represents the next stage of Toyota’s personal mobility development, following the PM, i-unit and TOYOTA i-swing. The name “REAL” symbolizes the hope for commercialization in the near future.
TOYOTA i-REAL is the realization of Japanese originality, through the harmonization of mobility and state-of-the-art robotics in a compact body. It is the attainable vision of a seamless movement from room, to pavement, to road. In pedestrian areas, shortening its wheelbase allows it to maneuver naturally among people at eyelevel. And on the road, the wheelbase lengthens to provide a lower center of gravity and more agile driving performance.
The motif of TOYOTA i-REAL’s design, based on Toyota’s “j-factor”, is an eggshell that holds the driver tight, and within its thin structure integrates two contradictory elements in harmony; the sense of security offered by the protection of its hard skin, and the peace of mind that the driver gets from being gently wrapped within its soft interior.
The simplicity of design relates to the Japanese aesthetic. An object that could be perceived as modern art inside a room, and outside the silhouette looks as graceful as the movement of the vehicle and driver.
TOYOTA i-REAL’s LED back display constantly changes to express the driver’s feelings, and its deep elegant glossy finish gives the vehicle aura and value.