Reducing the Inequity Gap: Longevity Design Challenge 19/20

Open call begins Sept.9th for the 2019/20 Stanford Longevity Center Design Challenge and this year the theme is “Reducing the Inequity Gap: Designing for Affordability”.

Following this event for seven years now, where the convergence of technology-based product solutions and longevity is celebrated in a global design contest at Stanford, one of the leading pitch presentations from around the world, in what is also positioned as the “technology and aging” space. Naturally, the inference readily taken with that phrase is that whom we are serving are older people, designing solutions to augment or support them in their later life journey.

Shifting that to “technology and longevity” changes everything. However, I suppose you could argue that the same inference (serving older people) is there with the word longevity. I think we are at a crossing point where the well-meaning intent in our language and terminology in the aging and longevity conversation is often conflicting or working at cross-purposes.  

In fact, if you read some of the Stanford sub texts such as in the previous 2014/15 design challenge, you would read a phrase, “…create solutions for empowering mobility among older adults”. The theme title that year was Enabling Personal Mobility Across the Life Span which does not necessarily imply older adults. Last year went a step in the right direction with the theme Contributing at Every Age: Designing for Intergenerational Impact.

Reading the opening statement in the 2019/20 Design Challenge Announcement Flyer it says:

“Addressing rising levels of inequity is a key challenge for this century, as new products and services far too often only reach people at upper socioeconomic levels. We challenge students around the world to innovate, to significantly reduce the cost of helping people at all ages do the things that increase their odds of long and healthy life outcomes.”

It goes on to say that among other things, “Designs could target the health and well-being of young people.” Stanford asks “Why Design for Affordability?” Well, the promise of longevity is a universal, inter-generational quest, and in these economic times, almost everyone at any age can identify with affordability and inequity issues. This year’s Stanford Longevity Design Challenge hits all the right notes, touches the spirit of what true “age-friendly” design is meant to be.

Finalists for the 2019/20 Design Challenge will be announced in January 2020.

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