This past week, we have learned a lot about fully understanding how to design for older adults. I think that it has been very beneficial for us as designers because the baby boomer generation is now the age group that falls under older adults. This is the largest generation of older adults that we have ever seen, so complying to their needs have become a growing concern.
For instance, there are a lot of older adults that have to use some sort of walking assistance, such as a cane or walker. My mother had to use both of these implements while recovering from spinal surgery. I saw how tough it was for her to get around, even with the help of a walker or cane. Looking back, we had to add tennis balls to the feet of the walker because the original rubber feet would get stuck or drag on different floorings. As a designer, I would look for a way to revamp the walker in a way that these rubber feet were more easily moveable while still supporting the weight of the end user. More often than not, the end user puts a lot of their weight onto the walker in order to lower the amount of impact of weight on their spine, knees, or hips.
I was one of the lucky few to don the GERT suit. Walking around was a struggle. Reaching was a struggle. Lifting weights was a struggle. Reading was a struggle. Pretty much every aspect of this exercise was a struggle. I knew that getting older was a struggle, but I didn’t realize how weighed down I would feel, how much I would feel my back start to ache because of trying to acclimate to the added weight of the suit. I underestimated how difficult it would be to fully extend my joints and try to walk and not feel unstable. The GERT activity made me want to ensure that all of my designs in school and after I graduate will accommodate for the older adult so that when I become an older adult, it won’t seem as difficult to do everyday tasks.
I thought that the argument relay was really interesting! It allowed us to defend our field and sustainable practices and how they apply to our field. Being sustainable is something that we all need to be and start applying into our lives. I truly believe that it starts with us. If we can start being sustainable in our field, others will follow and within time, the earth will begin it’s healing process.