20 August 2010

Baby Boomers & Universal Design

I received an interview request the other day from a fellow putting together a piece for a Hanley Wood pub.  At the last minute there was an emergency on his end and we didn’t get to chat.

I’d already thought about his email, dusted off some digital ether, and was prepared for:

I was hoping to get your perspective on what Baby Boomers are looking for in a home and why some shun the term "universal design."

On that same day Louis Tenenbaum emailed me out of the blue:

imageI  have not talked to you for a while but I referred to you in this blog:

Marketing Universal Design

Instead of “Look! It has this and this and this,” we’ll be sniffing around for friendly, useful spaces. You’ll want us to say, “Look! There’s a perfect place for my pottery wheel,” or “There are plenty of windows and sunlight. My house plants and indoor herb garden will do fine in here,” or “Good. I can put up big, deep shelves for my books and CDs,” or “Here’s the perfect room for our side business on Ebay,” or “Here’s a place where I can soundproof a recording studio or  entertainment center,” or “This oversized back door is great because I can roll my bicycle in and out without squeezing and jerking it around – and the extra-wide hallway means there’s plenty of room so I can just lean it against the wall and we won’t bang into it every time we walk past it.”

Chuck has it. It is not what you show a boomer, it is what the boomer sees in their own mind’s eye. It is about creating a canvas for the art of their lives. Chuck turns the undifferentiated opportunities inherent in Universal Design into the aspirational opportunity of the boomer shopper.

image I have to admit – it’s nice to have nice things said about me by a gentleman who’s actually out there designing and building stuff.  The last thing I built was with Lincoln Logs.

Also to prepare for the didn’t-happen trade mag interview, I reread this post and linked NYT piece:

A House Not for Mere Mortals
imageIts architecture makes people use their bodies in unexpected ways to maintain equilibrium, and that, she said, will stimulate their immune systems.

… I’m still sticking with UD meaning Universal Design – not Undulating Danger.

image But there are lessons to be learned from this wacky adult funhouse. Flipside: You don’t want Baby Boomers wandering around a UD model home and feeling as if every room is a padded cell where you couldn’t hurt yourself even if you tried.

There is a possibility of UD homes becoming places where you turn to mush. This is the current juicing the popularity of Brain Games – along with exercise routines that value balance and elasticity more than strength and endurance.

The ‘No Mush’ perception factor will be a challenging balancing act for UD communities, Aging-in-Place designers, builders – and advertising/marketing folks.

More reading:

Universal Design As A Beginning, Not An End

Selling Universal Design and Aging In Place (PDF)

Update 9/9/10: Finessing Universal Design for Boomers by Scott Rains

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