One of most thought-provoking exhibitions I’ve attended this year was back in February at the London Design Museum.
The free pop-up exhibition called ‘New Old’ explored issues relating to Britain’s aging population and it’s apparent we are entering a huge social change. Statistics revealed that currently, the over 60s already outnumber the under 16s in the UK and half of Europe’s population is predicted to be over 50 by 2020.
Curated by Jeremy Myerson, the exhibition raised questions about whether the design is ready for aging and how creative thinking could enhance the experience of the ‘new old’? Including everything from robotic clothing to artificial intelligence, the clever use of architectural models and props translated key messages and information on demographics, communities, working and mobility in a stimulating and interesting way.
Several design innovations were displayed including ideas for healthcare, transport, public areas and learning, highlighting how healthier offices and more accessible technology can help older people continue to contribute to a working society.
The exhibition also looked at how other countries like Norway and Japan, (the world’s most rapidly aging country) are shaping developments with an age-aware approach to design. For example, the Norwegian Government is currently leading the way with an ambitious goal to make their country a more age-friendly and ‘universally designed’ nation by 2025. And in Japan, the rebuilding effort following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sees an accessible, inclusive approach to design, especially leading up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.
The exhibition’s centerpiece display was a stunning giant 3D bar graph of different colored acrylic columns - a fantastic example of how state-of-the-art laser cutting techniques can be applied to model making. The centerpiece 3D infographic, made by a renowned model maker in London was a blast of color with 36 Perspex acrylic L-shaped columns representing the UK’s estimated aging population and projections between 2014 and 2039.
The huge centerpiece model helped transfer information in a succinct way and encouraged people to interact and participate.
Another display adjacent to the centerpiece 3D model also encouraged people to engage and have their say, by filling out cards about when they thought old age started and why. On completion, cards were hung at the appropriate age range section; a wall of color coded bright acrylic signs displaying different age brackets.
An Ipsos MORI poll carried out for the exhibition revealed that in the UK we think old age starts at 73 with 8% of us refusing to think of any age as ‘old’. As a strong believer in you’re only as old as you feel in your mind’ person, I find the 8%statistic quite pleasing.
The Design Museum certainly puts the subject of aging under a spotlight and raised the question of how our future designers cope with the challenge before them. Certainly, an exhibition to be remembered full of content that simply can’t be ignored.