Designing for our future selves

Designing for our future selves

The Design Museum and the Design Age Institute present a free exhibit of 10 innovations for healthier, happier aging.

Despite the 2021 Census results showing that 18.6% of the UK population was aged 65 or over, “companies and designers too often overlook the needs of older audiences,” says Josephine Chanter, director of audiences at the Design Museum, before the opening of a new exhibition exploring design to improve afterlife.

Opening at the museum on February 24, Designing for our Future Selves will comprise 10 new designs targeting areas such as home, health and work that are currently being developed by the Design Age Institute and its partners.

Contextualized by the issues present and future generations face as they age, with better health, financial security, and technological savvy against job losses from automation, the climate emergency, the rising cost of living, and an increasing risk of global pandemics, the projects appear not just to provide solutions for “our future selves” but to “radically reimagine” stages of life such as education, employment and retirement, according to the museum.

Redesigning the walker

Hamlyn Walker, credit to Michael Strantz

A commission for The Hamlyn Walker Challenge seeks to remove the stigma of the walker or walker, described by Lady Helen Hamlyn, Patron of the Helen Hamlyn Design Center at the Royal College of Art as “the most demeaning object we can give anyone.”

Product designer Michael Strantz proposed a unique wheeled frame for a walker and related scooter-like designs intended to meet the needs of different generations. Strantz is now working with PriestmanGoode and user groups to explore further possibilities within the concept.

inclusive banking

Happy Bank, Credit Jess Nash

Design Age Institute Resident Designer Roseanne Wakely worked with the UK’s National Center for Innovation on Aging and its Voice citizen research network, banking professionals and users to reimagine banking for the afterlife. The move to a cashless society and the closure of major branches that offered traditional banking services means that new solutions are needed to offer greater confidence and security, and meet the unique financial needs of seniors.

tidal massager

Tides, credit Eeva Rinne

Tides is a full body massager used to increase blood flow and maintain healthy tissues, with additional benefits including relaxation, better sleep, and pleasure. Designed for people experiencing menopause, Cellule Studio’s Salome Bazin and Giula Tomasello created the product as a therapeutic tool to tone pelvic floor muscles as the body ages. Unlike related products, Tides does not penetrate and does not target the genitals while using vibration technologies.

IntelAge Templates

IntelAge Templates

Created by Walk with Path founder Lise Pape following her father’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, IntellAge is a smart insole system that tracks mobility and gait with sensors. By sending real-time information and guidance to an app, the product hopes to give users insight into their gait and mitigate the risk of falls.

Other designs include a desirable and functional stairlift that allows people to easily transition from sitting to standing; a naturally insulated housecoat designed for reduced tolerance to low temperatures; a live/work space to support older people in the workforce; a portable, accessible and discreet incontinence device; lighting installations to improve circadian rhythms, affecting mood, sleep, hormone release, and temperature regulation; and the petition for inclusive packaging standards announced in November 2022.


The screens will also share the design development and co-creation process with users, through audio and video content, prototypes, materials, sketches, and user experience and inquiry feedback, as well as films by Chocolate films that discuss more closely the stories and experiences of older communities.

Design Age Institute Director Colum Lowe says: “Designing for our future selves allows us to explore how design innovation could improve our lives as we age. The exhibition will open this dialogue to younger audiences who may not have wondered what aging means in today’s society, the potential challenges that lie ahead, and how we seek to solve them.”

Designing for our Future Selves will be at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG, from February 24 to March 26, 2023. Header image by Hamlyn Walker, credit to Michael Strantz.

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