Design for Autonomous Ageing

The aging population is growing in numbers and proportion in every country in the world. As of 2017, the amount of people over the age of 60 was 13% (25% in Europe), and the amount of people over the age of 80 was 1.85% (Ageing, UN).

Woman holding a Philips phone. Retrieved from Pixabay.

Both groups are increasing rapidly, the population over 60 will duplicate by 2050, while the population over 80 will triplicate. It means huge challenges on the horizon for key pillars of our society, such as markets, labour, services, housing, etc., in which design can play a big role in order to overcome them.

Designing for autonomous ageing is defined as “The freedom to determine one’s own actions”. Translated to the care context, the senior person is considered autonomous, and in charge (Tischa, J. M. et. al). Design choices are very important to achieve a safe and independent lifestyle for senior citizens. The Aging with Dignity New York City report highlights many opportunities, such as building additional bus shelters and benches to better serve the older population. But, what are the key points in order to create better products for the aging population?

Firstly, it is important to understand that ageing is a multidimensional process of change that conditions the physical, mental and social aspects of a person. It is a functional decline that affects mobility, sight and hearing, with the increase of multimorbidity, the co-occurrence of 2 or more chronic medical conditions in one person (Tischa, J. M. et. al). All that is further complicated by the  higher interpersonal variability.

Secondly, it is necessary to identify common causes that affect elderly in their daily interaction with products, such as burns or falls at home. In addition, it also helps to group them by their level of autonomy. Is the person dependent on someone else or is he or she completely independent? Does he or she live alone or with the partner?

Finally, once the target limitations and group are defined, human-centered design methods must be implemented, always including the stakeholders, which in this case usually are: doctors, nurses, caregivers, family members, etc. This design methodologies, together with inclusive design, help to navigate a difficult, multifaceted and ill-defined problem.

At the faculty of Industrial Design of TU Delft, research and multiple projects with the aim of improving the autonomy and quality of life of the older population are being elaborated. More information in the Design Innovation for Ageing.

References and Interesting Links:

  • Ageing, UN. Retrieved from
  • Aging with Dignity: A Blueprint for Serving NYC’s Growing Senior Population. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Tischa J. M. Van Der Cammen, Albayrak, A., Voûte, E., & Molenbroek, J. F. (2016, 11). New horizons in design for autonomous ageing. Age and Ageing. doi:10.1093/ageing/afw181

Topic Contributors: Kevin Mamaqi Kapllani

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