Innovating Aging in Place.
The theme for the 4th annual Design Challenge at the Stanford Center on Longevity; and the nine finalists were announced last week. This contest is but one of several intersections where technology innovations address the needs of well-being for people “across the life span”. I’ve been following this particular event since it began in 2013. It serves as an annual reminder of how this field of design is significant to the future of a longevity society.
This year the finalists represent student designers from five countries – Brazil, Canada, China, Pakistan and the USA. As usual, for fun, at this stage of the Stanford process, I usually vote for my top three choices. What I found through my research on these finalists this time is that in many cases there was not enough background information available to give a reasonable assessment.
Further to that I found, as is the case in many of the technology design product solutions I’ve followed through the four years of the Stanford challenge, as well as in several “design hackathons” around the world; the concepts are beginning to sound repetitive, borrowing or adapting from others. On the other hand, this is not a bad thing. Historically it is after all, part of the enterprising and competitive nature of innovation.
Back to the Stanford mantra – “…finding creative solutions that support well-being across the life span”, the descriptions for some of these finalists focus on an older demographic, referring to the category label seniors, and in one case for example “people over age 60”. However it must be said that if you are to say “across the life span”, then why wouldn’t any of these products be of useful service at any age? Thus, it is truly age-friendly design.
So here’s my best fun shot at calling the winners which will be announced in late April 2017.
1st. Uppo Walker
My first place pick simply because of the immediate “go to market” practicality and innovation on a commonplace item we see used every day; and the thoughtful well-presented story as laid out on the Uppo design slide deck really impressed me. They open with a question, which is the best way to set up an audience to listen: “How do we develop a mobility device…without compromising posture in order to enable the aging population to maneuver independently and safely?”
Virtual Reality is here to stay and this Rendever experience seems to have a head start (so to speak) in the market as you will see when you visit the web site. I recently attended a presentation at the Sheridan College Centre for Elder Research titled “Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population”. Combined with hearing that and seeing this, it strongly suggests that Rendever very soon won’t be the only game in town.
Very compelling web site story – the two women on the home page screen shot, should be paid ongoing royalties for their sales presentation performance!
Even though I couldn’t seem to find anything about this in my on-line search, I put on my own imaginary VR head gear and saw this web platform as being able to support a noble inter-generational experience and serve a common social need at a time where economic realities are becoming tougher for many people in urban areas.
Designed by students at University of California, Berkeley, BeeHome is “a platform that matches older adults with tenants who offer them assistance with household chores in exchange for a more affordable housing option”. This “sharing economy” activity has already been happening as a global movement for many years. Check out Homeshare International.
The Stanford Longevity Design Challenge is produced in collaboration with Aging 2.0 and the first prize gets $10K in addition to the opportunity to present their design to companies and potential investors. Welcome to the longevity economy!