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Did you know that one in three babies born today will celebrate their hundredth birthday? Or, if that seems too distant a time frame, are you aware that one in four New Zealanders will be over 65 by 2030?
Today, the ageing population is characterised by the growing desire to spend their golden years at home, creating a stronger need for homes which support homeowners through every stage of their life. While every designer aims to provide solutions that won’t date, unforeseen changes in physical capability can limit the functionality of today’s state-of-the-art home.
This demographic development plays a key role in the research and development of fittings, hardware & cabinet applications at Blum. For over 20 years, Blum has been observing kitchen and furniture usage in private homes exploring what furniture needs to do to provide home comfort for all generations.
The research is also supported through sensory sessions with the AgeExplorer® suit, developed by the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany. Age simulation suits, used by car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz or appliances produce like Miele, enable a person to experience the reality of stiff joints, impaired sight and hearing, and loss of muscle strength thanks to an array of straps, built-in weights, goggles, and restrictive stitching.
So what has Blum discovered during their observation studies, and what are the prerequisites of a design for all?
Here are the three tips to help you recognise the needs of the future:
1. Minimise the need to bend and stretch
Cupboards above head height and under benches may be fine for younger users but will be awkward for those whose balance and muscle strength is not what it was. Consider overhead storage units with AVENTOS lift mechanisms that swing up and out of the user’s way, providing freedom of motion. Under the kitchen workbench, drawers with soft-close and one-touch opening mechanisms like SERVO-DRIVE generally prove much more forgiving for older users, especially when utilising heavier drawers.
2. Contrasting colours make life easier for those with impaired vision
A modish all-white kitchen may be the look your client has fallen in love with. However, the reality is that they may struggle to see light switches in the later years. Instead, consider contrasting face plates and cabinet handles with task lighting to improve usability.
At the age of 60, you need three times the ambient light you needed at 20. At 70 you’ll have lost up to 30% of your peripheral vision.
3. Think beyond the kitchen
The need for stable work surfaces and ease of access doesn’t go away when users leave the kitchen. Pull-out storage and soft-close drawers can be just as useful in the bedroom, bathroom, laundry and living areas.
For example, the Blum SPACE TOWER works brilliantly as a bedroom or bathroom storage unit, as well as a pantry. Visibility on three sides makes it easy to find and retrieve items without straining. While a pull-out workbench that locks into place at bench height makes lifting laundry loads a thing of the past.
Generate first-hand insights with an AgeExplorer® workshop at Blum.
Experience is a great teacher, so Blum invites designers and cabinetmakers to simulate the effects of ageing with its AgeExplorer®suits in Auckland and Christchurch.
The same technology used by Blum to investigate functionality in product design is available for those who want to design timeless homes. Once in the suit, you will be given a range of tasks, from distinguishing specific items with impaired vision to opening cupboards in various configurations. You will age 20 years in less than 2 minutes and discover what a huge difference ergonomic design can make. There is no charge and no requirement to specify Blum products.
Get in touch with the Blum team and book your AgeExplorer® session today.