Many of us have lived this story: a parent or other loved ones who want nothing more than to stay in their own home as they age. The issue is gaining attention because the first 70 million Baby Boomers hit 65 years old in 2011. Their home-related needs will have a significant impact on home and product design.
That impact is explored in an exhibition called “Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future” at the University of Minnesota’s Goldstein Museum of Design in St. Paul. It will be on display until May 22, 2011. The exhibition explores the housing trend of “aging in place,” which allows people to stay in their home by using products with adaptive technologies and by making simple adjustments to their living environment.
Featured in the exhibition is Mobilegs, from Mobi, an innovative mobility device developer in Minneapolis. Mobilegs is a breakthrough in crutch design that makes it easier, safer, and more comfortable to get around. It’s designed by Jeff Weber of Studio Weber + Associates. He also designed Herman Miller’s Embody chairs, Caper chairs, and Envelop desk, which are among the products featured in the Smart House as well.
The exhibition is the “home” of fictional, 65-ish homeowners, Jim and Sarah, who have renovated their 1960s home so that they can continue to enjoy their active lifestyle. Visitors can sit in a power-lifted chair, handle easy-to-use-kitchen utensils, scoot around the kitchen on a wheeled chair to try out lower counters, operate an easy-open window, and observe wall colors and lighting that ameliorate the impact of changing vision. The bath features a walk-in shower and reinforced wall for grab bars.
Through notes between Jim and Sarah and brief videos, visitors will be privy to the challenging decision-making process that the couple went through during the renovation and what they especially appreciate about the design features of their transformed home.
With the “Smart House” exhibit, Herman Miller, Jeff Weber, and everyone else associated with it are helping us not only understand issues of aging, but also feel better about our future. And it’s never too early for that.
Image via: University of Minnesota’s Goldstein Museum of Design