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Design for Aging

Trends, Opportunities and Resources


Design for Aging
@Siri Stafford, Getty Images

We have spent a lot of time looking at aging in place and how to design for it. However, on a larger scale, design for an aging population reaches far beyond the borders of a home. Design for Aging impacts many environments. And that means great opportunity for architects, interior designers and contractors who want to embrace this space.

The elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. According to the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), “the aging of the population will affect every interior environment.” This includes:

  • Hospitality – restaurants, hotels and motels
  • Workplace – offices, retail stores and other work spaces
  • Healthcare – outpatient and in-home care
  • Retail
  • Multihousing/multiuse – growing demand for livable communities and urban complexes with easy access to health care, entertainment, shopping

Senior Housing

The National Whole-Person Wellness Survey (NWPWS), undertaken by Mather Lifeways Institute on Aging, asked organizations to rate different amenities according to how important they would be to residents 10 years from now. Here is what an article in ASID reported they found:

  1. Group exercise room
  2. Exercise/equipment room
  3. Computer area
  4. Activity/game room
  5. Physical therapy/Occupational therapy
  6. Beauty salon/barber
  7. Class/meeting room
  8. Parlor/lounge
  9. Library
  10. Wellness Center
  11. Walking path
  12. Casual dining room
  13. Clinic
  14. Indoor pool
  15. Refreshment area
  16. Whirlpool
  17. Formal dining room
  18. Locker rooms

Bolded items indicate how organizations responded when asked what they would be developing within the next two years. There were other items they are developing that are not on the consumers’ wish list yet deemed important to providers.

ASID Design for Aging Council a Vital Resource

The ASID Design for Aging Council was formed to address how interior designers can meet the needs and wishes of older persons and of the entities and providers who support them. The Council is looking ahead to how the “age wave” will affect interior design practice across all areas of practice and specialty, with particular attention to issues that span generations and life stage, such as accessibility, visitability and Universal Design.

Council activities include:

  • Identifying and developing information to educate interior designers about the needs and wishes of older persons.
  • Informing the public and the media about the ways interior designers can help meet the needs of an aging population.
  • Gathering case studies that demonstrate the many facets of “aging” environments.
  • Establishing relationships with organizations in the design, building and health care industries.

American Institute of Architects (AIA)

The mission of the AIA Design for Aging Knowledge Community (DFA) is to foster design innovation and disseminate knowledge necessary to enhance the built environment and quality of life for an aging society. This includes relevant research on characteristics, planning, and costs associated with innovative design for aging.

The organization issued a report Top Ten Senior Housing Trends for 2011. It is worth a look and a stark reminder of the haves and have nots in an aging society.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)

NAHB offers the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation program that teaches the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to competing in the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry.


InformeDesign is an evidence-based Web site that houses an extensive database of easy-to-read Research Summaries written for designers of the built environment—interior designers, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, graphic designers, code officials and policy makers.

Do You Have What It Takes?

ASID cautions that the field of designing for the elderly is not for everyone. They say “prepare to be humble. There is a steep learning curve, and the demand is not yet as great as some would have you believe.”

That said you can make a difference in someone’s life. And they note that doing this kind of work is as much about temperament as it is about skills. If you see yourself with the following characteristics, the field could be for you. ASID notes the following:

  • compassionate/caring
  • actively listens
  • has a respect for individuals
  • has an interest, beyond money and a job
  • able to establish mutual respect and communication with healthcare, social workers
  • comprehends the implications of change in life and ability
  • comprehends the implications of prognosis for individuals and diseases
  • has an appreciation of the integration of services/caregiving/ability

Do you have what it takes? If so get started!

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