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AAA™ In the News - April 2019 - Designing For Life

On May 14 & 15th AAA host our next Congress uniting experts, innovators and doers.

We’ll be making a number of exciting announcements about the progress we’re making behind the scenes and reveal how we’re putting the theory into practice, to not just reimagine but deliver our Neighbourhoods of the Future.

Learn more about the event here in Ian Spero’s latest article, where you’ll see some of the notable figures in attendance. It promises to be a great two days.

Before you do, take a few moments to catch up with the best articles we’ve seen and shared this month.

Tech One-Two

We kick things off with two pieces that caught our eye about the increasing number of innovative tech aimed at older adults.

According to this article from Crunchbase, the number of tech start-ups targeting older adults, and attracting millions in investment as they do, grows daily.

With one eye on making products cool enough to ‘impress a millennial’, while being useable (and useful) for those they're made for, products like HeyHerbie's TV-compatible software are helping users by meeting them where they’re at in terms of current tech usage.

According to HeyHerbie founder Ashish Mudgal; "Right now, younger baby boomers are paving the way to technology adoption. We believe that we [older users] have been adapting to technology and now it’s time technology adapts to us”.

This approach is borne out in this Fast Company article, revealing how design plays a big part in guiding our interactions with new technology, and helping introduce it more organically.

Much like HeyHerbie used tech already familiar to users, designer Gabriella Spinelli and colleague Massimo Micocci's experimental 'radio' uses the same appearance and functionality of the classic device, while incorporating motion tracking capabilities and two-way contact for its user to tell a select few they’re OK.

Gabriella explains; “Only 20% of over-75s in the U.K. have a smartphone...[which] helps explain why most older adults tend to use what they know best when it comes to communicating, which usually means a phone call via a landline or basic mobile, instead of a quick text or social media update”.

By incorporating instant messaging update capability into a familiar form - or 'design metaphors' - they hope new technology can be more accessible and feel less like an invasion of privacy.

It seems simple when you think about it. Why reinvent the wheel when you can make it more robust, powerful and useful? Perhaps our homes of the future will look very familiar to older generations, if not a little busier, says our next article.

Family Homes

According to this piece in the Guardian, more families are choosing to make their home multi-generational, with "the number of households with three generations living together rising from 325,000 in 2001 to 419,000 in 2013" (according to ONS figures). “The total number of all multigenerational households in Britain is thought to be about 1.8 million".

The motivation is often financial, but the benefits are many. Greater levels of cross-generational contact, closer support in times of need and better use of resources.

Architects like Manisha Patel want to see a lot more. Having built multigenerational housing as part of the Olympic Park development in east London, and planning more across the country, Manisha says; “Young people can’t get on the housing ladder, so you get kids coming home, families growing who can’t afford to move. You’re getting loft conversions and extensions, and people are losing their independence. This is where the multigenerational house comes in”.

This isn't just a UK trend, with Canada seeing a “40% rise in multigenerational households, and about 64 million Americans – about 20% of the population – have multiple generations under one roof, according to the Pew Research Center”.

Good, is what we say. Not being able to afford your own home isn't good of course, quite the opposite, but the closer we stay to each other the better. It's how we reduce isolation and increase the benefit of shared wisdom – a truth being brought to life in a new experiment by a US theatre professor.

Face Time

Created by Penn State professor Andrew Belser, FaceAge is an experiment using conversations between older and younger people which audiences can view via close-ups of their faces as they talk.

The key is taking the time to focus on their faces, as according to Andrew; “I wanted younger and older people to talk to each other and to really study each other’s faces because that’s where aging is noticed”.

It's not just about increasing understanding of each other however, but ourselves. For example, why we might surgically alter our own faces to look younger or the preconceptions we can form while looking at others'.

He continues; “It always seemed to me that we over-valued youthful appearance and in the sacrifice there, the trade-off is that we miss the wisdom of aging”.

Our changing lifestyles and increasing mobility are impacting inter-generational contact. We love seeing experiments like this because they remind us of the human factor, what we have in common and why it’s worth preserving.

In Brief

We turn now to the rest of the best stories from this month, starting with this lovely piece in the Guardian about star architect Frank Gehry, who at 90 is still loving his work, is more inventive than ever and still (hugely) culturally relevant – hanging out with the likes of superstar rapper Jay-Z and taking up flying in his 80’s. It’s quite the life he’s led.

We then have this insightful BMJ blog from Javad Hekmat-panah, professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the University of Chicago, who writes about the need to recognise the term ‘elderly’ as outdated and potentially harmful, and should no longer be used in medicine. Words convey meanings and this particular word is “outdated, conjures up bias, and does harm”. It is essentially a human rights issue, he argues, to be treated as individuals we should avoid these negative catch-all terms. Through this we can treat people more fairly. Here here!

You may after all be one of the emerging “tribe of hard body sexagenarians” featured in this article from World Health Net – Rise of the Superfit Sixties. According to Nuffield Health, there are increasing numbers of 60+ gym goers putting in high-intensity workouts to seriously improve fitness. Apparently; “Supreme fitness is being seen to offset the slide in self esteem that can occur during the 60s that makes them feel good as well as look good, that they just don’t want to give up, in numbers not seen before in previous generations”. No ‘elderly’ types here.

And what if you’ve signed up to a ‘second life’ like those in Japan taking advantage of an initiative to help retirees go back to work to stay active and engaged in society? This short video from the BBC takes a quick look at some of those doing so already in the country leading the way in addressing its ageing population. Agile ageing indeed.

That's it for this month, until our next review be sure to follow us on twitter and #BeAgile!

Image used with permission. Copyright Julian Hochgesang via Unsplash.