Caroma – the bathroom people, and University of New South Wales got together to do some hands-on research on bathroom fittings with a group of older people. The resulting report covers the collaborative research methods as well as the attitudes and feelings of older people towards assistive fittings and designs. The title of the Caroma report is Ageing Joyfully.
Older people feel stigmatised by “special” designs. Some fittings, such as a small grab rail, could be included as standard in all bathrooms therefore avoiding the stigma. Then we would have safer bathrooms for all (universal design).
Here is a quote from the report that shows how stigma prevents some people from adapting their homes: “One member of a co-design group remembered the time her husband was prescribed grab rails “The shudders went through, it has come to this!” However, after having the rails for a long time she found herself using them more and more, said she wouldn’t be without them and thought they would benefit everyone. ‘If it were standard it would be normal’ and so would have no stigma of being associated only with the frail elderly.”
The report offers advice for designers, “For designers, working collaboratively with older people provides a rapid feedback on assumptions and design proposals. Older people have at least as varied aesthetic preferences as any other cohort, and they have a powerful connection between home and identity.”
Editor’s note: It is a pity the front cover picture is a stock item showing a young person in a carer uniform semi-embracing an older woman in a wheelchair. As we know, this is not indicative of the breadth of the older population. It was probably chosen by the designer contracted to layout the document.