Senior-centered Adaptations

Glen Hougan
NSCAD University, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design


Glen Hougan
NSCAD University

In biology an adaptation is evolutionary process where an organism becomes better able to live in its habitat.  In design an adaptation also involves a process where a product or space is changed or evolved to better meet a specific users needs.  The one group that is constantly adapting to their habitat is our senior population.  Their problem is that much of the everyday products they use and spaces they inhabit are not always designed for them in mind and therefore they are forced to creatively adapt or ‘hack’ those products and spaces to more effectively meet their aged needs.   

This paper investigates how and what designers can learn from these senior centered adaptations. Using examples from a visual database of over 300 of these adaptations or ‘hacks’, a framework will be presented in order to understand the following: what are the types of adaptations, where in the home environment are these adaptations occurring, what activities are associated with these adaptations, and what is the level of these adaptations.  A case study of adaptations at an assisted living facility will be presented and their ‘hacks’ will be compared to similar industry led products.  A specific focus will be on senior led home medication management adaptations and a design class project, where students were partnered with seniors in an exploration of these medication systems, will be followed and the design outcomes analyzed.