Ageing & Design: How Grandpa Is Changing the Packaging

With improvements in science and the medical management of many diseases, we have seen a growing aging population. Since 1950, the global age expectancy has increased from 48 years in 1950-1955 to 68 years in 2005-2010. This is expected to rise to an average of 76 in the next half century.

Adele Graham-King

As a consequence of this extended longevity, this group is learning effective management of long-term disease conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc. But as healthcare provision shifts to the home environment, they are no longer relying on medical professionals to provide daily device and drug management.

As many of these conditions progress, co-existing disease states develop, and many people must manage multiple therapeutic regimens. In order to do this effectively, they must self-manage their care.

There are many "living aids" designed to assist older people in their daily tasks, and The Design Council is currently considering how design can impact daily chores (Ageing Better by Design), but this group has more issues and challenges than many other patient cohorts. There is a higher incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson's Syndrome, failing eyesight, and dementia, among many other ailments.

It's hard to find examples of medical devices that are simple to understand, easy to handle, easy to apply, and generally more acceptable to the older generation. It's even harder to find devices that have been specifically developed to their needs. In fact, as of yet -- I've failed to find one.

We consider Child Resistance, we try daily to improve the user experience, we try to make devices smaller, faster, even chic. But this group probably need chunkier, simpler, maybe even slower equipment and packaging. As designers and engineers, it's counterintuitive to design devices and corresponding packaging in this way.

As we age, we have reduced dexterity, a decreased ability to recall, and often, decreased self-confidence. We may find that as the population ages, the design trend for smaller, sleeker devices and packaging is going to move toward devices with bigger, more well-developed packaging.

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Adele Graham-King, Blogger

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