There is much written about older people and their attachment to their home, but what about furniture? I’m sure most of us are familiar with grandfather’s “favourite chair”. So, what makes it a favourite? Comfort, ease of use, or does it go further than that to self image? A study on furniture in later life has some interesting findings for furniture in all types of housing.
What kind of relationship do older people have with their furniture? How does moving to a new home affect their relationship with their furniture? What can that relationship tell us about the affect of furniture design on older people? The study found that older people had emotional bonds with their existing furniture. It is part of their identity. This leads to the conclusion that it is important for people to take their furniture with them when they move. It gives a better sense of home even if it is a new environment.
Issues arise in places such as nursing homes where staff have their preferences for furniture design. Also, family members can make choices that aren’t the preferences of the older person. As with many studies, the conclusion includes the need to involve older people in the design process, particularly in residential care settings. Furniture can support and enrich older people and should be part of understanding the living conditions and their emotional bonds, culture and history.
Furniture for Later Life: Design Based on Older People’s Experiences of Furniture in Three Housing Forms is by Oskar Jonsson. It is a doctoral thesis so there is a lot of information. Unfortunately, Oskar tells me he did not publish any shorter papers from his thesis. However, the Table of Contents provides links to the key information.
From the abstract:
Generalizations made regarding older people’s needs have proved to be too limited in scope to meet their needs and wishes. There is great variety in what old people express regarding furniture and reveal a diversity of interests, needs and wishes. In the light of the research results, it is unreasonable to reduce older people to a homogeneous group or attempt to specify their needs in advance. Despite this, the results reveal needs and wishes for furniture that provide comfort, pleasure and independence and that contribute to desired experiences of dignity, meaningfulness and freedom.
No need to fear the ugly
The Washington Post extols the virtues of universal design making the point that it can look beautiful. Regardless of how it looks, many people think it feels beautiful. That’s because it is good design – design that has a focus on comfort and convenience for the whole family.
As with many articles, the article focuses on wheelchair access. The article discusses interior design in different settings and emphasises the “wellness” aspect of design.
One key point is that of Boomers watching their parents go to age segregated living and they know they don’t want that themselves. Dallas interior designer Chad Dorsey says, ” “It starts outside with an ease of approach — something gracious,” he says: simple, elegant entrances that accommodate a wheelchair; shallow, illuminated steps with a handsome handrail; or a textured stone that provides traction.
There are all sorts of ways to make a front door welcoming. “The more we talk about it, discuss it and show it, the more solutions we’ll find. Accessibility is a lifestyle, and it can be beautiful and natural.” ” There is no need to “fear the ugly”.
The article has lots of pictures, which are worth a look, showing how universal design can create access and comfort for everyone. The title of the article is, Accessible design is growing. But can it be beautiful?
Image courtesy of Motionspot. Note that while the lift provides access to the upper floor, the staircase has no hand rail or balustrade. If anyone trips or loses their balance, at least there is a lift if they become immobile!