DIP2017: Workshop 02: Design for the Elderly: Understanding physical and mental health (Part 2) (TH/EN)

For DIP2017: Workshop 02 Design for the Elderly: Understanding physical and mental health (Part 2) the participants meet with Pornyos Chattarakul, Head of the Achieve Better Living for Elderly, ABLE Lab), Faculty of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, sharing insights on designing for the elders.

Key Insight:

  • Design for the elderly is specific because it aims to serve a single user group with commodities such as clothing, medicines, and exercise equipment.
  • Design for the elderly is a holistic approach, which entails a true understanding of the user group. This can be achieved by conducting field research and talking to the target group to identify gaps. Designers need to find what drives their behavior, including perception of life and motivation for living.

Design for the Elderly: What we should know by Pornyos Chattarakul, Head of the Achieve Better Living for Elderly, ABLE Lab), Faculty of Architecture and Design, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi

In addition to exercise for good health, design for the elderly is another important component of this project. Starting with a question on the differences between universal design and design for the elderly. There is a misunderstanding that these two are the same when in fact design for the elderly is much more specific. It aims to serve a single user group with commodities such as clothing, medicines, and exercise equipment while universal design is more focused on the public such as design of pavements, elevators, or handrails.

Design for the Elderly

  1. Social and culture: the drivers and changes among each elderly group vary according to different conditions, including place of residence and culture, profession, social status, behavior and experience (for example, on the first day after retirement, older adults may be depressed and unable to cope, especially seniors who used to work in the city in a company, government agency, or trading. They may be depressed when they stay at home. By not being able to go out, they may become obese and stressed.)
  2. Psychology: change in the mental state. As people get older, their experience changes. Seniors may feel less confident and valued, which may cause change in behavior and living state, including proficiency, drivers, and lifestyles.
  3. Physicality: the elderly’s ability to take control of their physicality change as they lose control in terms of accuracy, level of energy, and distance estimation. Their nervous system that mediates perception and response weakens.

The elderly are valuable assets with a wealth of data, knowledge, experience, and memory. As a participant of this project, the key is to gather in-depth information from different sources such as pantip.com to monitor current events, TED Talk videos, documentaries, and books (such as 21st Century Asian Family) to get an overall picture before drilling down to the target group.

The next step is to conduct field research by talking to representative samples without bias to identify the drivers and motivations that influence how they live and behave. Incentives may need to be given to the representatives of the target group. The research is conducted in an informal talk to gather data for analysis before design. Design for the elders is a holistic approach, which entails a true understanding of the user group. This can be achieved by conducting field research and talking to the target group to identify gaps. Designers need to find what drives their behavior, including perception of life and motivations.

Then, prototyping comes next. As Pornyos mentioned, “whatever idea we have, the important is to visualize it.” Many times, ideas on paper or prototypes are well received, but actual products turn out to be unsuccessful. Designers must use feedback to improve the products as a precaution.

Pornyos ended the lecture with a note that one of the designer’s responsibilities is to tie theory and practicality together. Currently, Thailand does not have a body of knowledge in an aging population. This is the time to build that knowledge in many dimensions: infrastructures, state policies, social welfare, and services that need cooperation from all involved parties.


Next article DIP2017: From ideas to possibilities (iWill Project) here

Previous article DIP2017: Workshop 02 Design for the Elderly: Understanding physical and mental health (Part 1) here


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