Design Age Institute launches suite of new initiatives

The organisation has announced a Design Age Directory and a community for designers and “ageing humans” to challenge negative stereotypes.

By Molly Long April 28

The Design Age Institute will celebrate its first anniversary with a suite of new projects and initiatives which seek to continue its mission of making later life better through design.

Launched in 2020 with funding from Research England, the institute is attached to the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA). It was established to support the government’s Grand Challenge on an Ageing Society, with a mission to support age inclusive design through aspirational products and services.

To mark its first anniversary, the institute has announced the creation of two initiatives: the Design Age Directory and This Age Thing.

Image courtesy of Design Age Institute, RCA

“It’s vital we engage with the design community”

As the name suggests, the Design Age Directory will be a national directory for design and healthy ageing. It will serve as a showcase of UK talent, thereby helping to match up designers with service providers and product developers looking to work with the country’s ageing population.

“It’s vital [we] engage with the design community as without them we cannot deliver on our objectives,” says Design Age Institute director Colum Lowe. “We’re really keen for any designers who have experience working in inclusive design and ageing to register.”

Lowe says the platform is a space for designers to “promote their skills to potential clients in the healthy ageing space”. Those wishing to browse the talent on offer are able to filter by disciplines such as architecture, fashion, digital, furniture and service design.

Clicking on a discipline brings up descriptions of studios and practitioners and information on their work and specialisms. There are currently limited studios to chose from, but Lowe is encouraging anyone with an inclusive design background to express interest in being part of the directory. This can be done through the Design Age Directory website.

Aura Power Suit, by Yves Béhar, Fuseproject and Superflex

“Sharing the millions of positive stories of ageing”

In conjunction with the directory, the Design Age Institute is also launching The Age Thing, a community the will bring together “designers, businesses, service providers, researchers, policy makers and ageing humans”.

The aim of the initiative will be to “celebrate aging and challenge negative stereotypes”. This will be done through amplifying positive stories about getting older, as well as “striving for justice and equality” and co-creating solutions.

Georgina Lee, community lead at the Design Age Institute and chief community officer for This Age Thing, says the work here will be split in two parts. “The first is sharing the millions of positive stories of ageing – to change the narrative of ageing from one of decline to one of opportunity, hope and joy,” she says.

“The second part is to identify the many challenges that we will all face as we age. To collectively use our lived experience to identify these challenges and then to work with researchers, designers, industry and government to help create the products, services, places to live and work which benefit us all throughout our whole lives.”

Stories will be shared on the This Age Thing website.

Image courtesy of Centaur Robotics

Pathfinder projects

Finally, the institute has also announced it will be working with industry partners to develop and bring towards market 16 “pathfinder projects”.

One of these projects will be the continued work between the institute and Centaur Robotics on their two-wheeled personal electronic vehicle the Centaur. Design Week spoke with Lowe and Centaur Robotics about the Centaur in 2020.

For the further 15 projects, the organisation will provide and facilitate seed funding, design research, opportunity scoping and mentoring, as well as connecting projects with design experts.

Pathfinder projects will need to address seven key priorities: mobility, health, social connection, working life, financial services, the home and ageism.

For more information or to get involved with the initiatives, head to the Design Age Institute website.