Design for the old is design for all

Article published in The Guardian, Wednesday 17 October 2007

«You write about older people’s «sense of becoming invisible» (Leaders, October 15), but then reinforce this perception by using terms such as «the needy elderly» and «the often cruel but unavoidable burden of ageing». Such thinking underpins systems which create dependence rather than empower independence. A more radical understanding would start from notions of family and neighbourhoods which celebrate older people as active citizens.

This would lead to a re-evaluation of the relationship between social care and health, placing more emphasis on issues which really promote independence and dignity such as friendships, home, transport and shopping. As Professor Bernard Isaacs of this university used to say: «Design for the young and you exclude the old. Design for the old and you include everyone.»

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