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Design and its role in engaging older people

25 October 2011

People from Sheffield have been talking about their experiences of ageing as part of a global research project, that explores the role design plays in promoting quality of life for older people. Now, organisers of the project are hoping Sheffield's older people will attend 'engagingdesign', an exhibition at Sheffield Hallam University next month, to share their findings before it travels across Europe as part of next year's European Year of Active Ageing.

The research, funded by the British Council under the Prime Minister's CONNECT programme, has brought together groups of older people in Sheffield and Taipei, Taiwan, to draw on their experiences and to involve them in designing future services and products to promote wellbeing in older age. The three-year project is underpinned by designers from Sheffield Hallam University's Lab 4 Living who are designing new products, environments, services and systems to reflect the way elderly people feel their care can be improved.

Paul Chamberlain, head of the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam, said: "Despite Britain's rapidly increasing older population, we have found that older people often feel shut off from having a say on what can be done to make a difference to their lives. It is important not only to have this global discussion but to begin a complementary design process to make the mechanisms of care more intuitive and less dictatorial so we can properly reflect the status of our older population.

"Participants have described the opportunities and concerns that ageing presents and have shared their ideas in terms of the potential role that design might play in creating a better future for all generations. We have held a series of exhibitions and workshops in locations from the Taipei Underground to the Building Centre in London and found differences and similarities in the way older people are treated in the two countries.
"It is clear that more needs to be done to empower older people to better manage their own needs in their own environments."

Exhibits at engagingdesign, which runs from Friday November 4 to Sunday November 27 at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery in the Cantor Building, include items designed to provoke discussion about ageing.

The work also features videos of older people from Taiwan and Sheffield sharing their experiences of ageing as well as objects and design concepts developed through the research.

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