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Designing a world we want to age into

CNET Now What talks to three designers working for everyone who will age.

Now playing: Watch this: Coronavirus has highlighted design for good aging

America may grow by 100 million people by 2050 and they certainly won't all be young. Older adults benefit more from social integration than other groups, but America's mobile lifestyle and the isolation imposed by COVID-19 tend to work against that. Now what?

Some of the answers lie in the way we envision the built spaces around us, starting with spaces that may cater to neither the young nor the elderly. "We are designing for a continuum of people," says Penny Herscovitch, associate professor in environmental design at ArtCenter College of Design. "We're all aging."

Intergenerational home

A concept for the space in an intergenerational home thats designed neither for one demographic nor another, created by Hannah Kwon and Judy Lee for a class at ArtCenter College of Design.

ArtCenter College of Design

"Nobody wants to go to a place that is designed just for them," says Dillon Chi, student designer at the ArtCenter College of Design. "Nobody wants to go to the island of old age," Chi says, paraphrasing WISE and Healthy Aging in Santa Monica, CA, a center he and his colleagues collaborate with.

That idea leads away from a strict caregiver-dependent dynamic. "This relationship we are trying to create is to [foster] interaction," not just a polar relationship based on who is caring for whom, says ArtCenter student designer Susie Moon. "We believe that younger generations should be involved in the design of living spaces for the elderly in order to bridge that gap."

Intergenerational cafe

An intergenerational cafe, created by Hannah Kwon and Judy Lee, environmental design students at ArtCenter College of Design.

ArtCenter College of Design

"It's not about independence anymore, it's about maintaining agency in your daily life," says Chi. He and Susie Moon worked with environmental design students Hannah Kwon and Judy Lee at ArtCenter to devise a built world that supports such agency.

"We're not designing for other people when we're designing for older people," says Herscovitch, "we're designing for our future selves."

These three ArtCenter designers shared many more insights with CNET's Brian Cooley about design for a new way of aging. Hear them all in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal."  There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all. 

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