The first of 70 million Baby Boomers will reach age 65 in 2011. The size and impact of this post-World War II generation will challenge America's resources, communities, and concepts of what it is to be a "senior." An AARP survey quoted in the Wall Street Journal (9/19/09) found that 85% of surveyed individuals age 50+ said they wish to remain in their community for as long as possible.
What does the desire to continue living independently mean for the design of homes for aging Baby Boomers, and for the design of communities? Professor Marilyn Bruin (Housing Studies) and graduate student Jodene Riha will address these questions in the current exhibition, Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future, at the Goldstein Museum of Design (GMD) running February 5-May 22, 2011.
The exhibition will look like a small, attractive home inhabited by fictional, 65-ish homeowners, Jim and Sarah. Visitors will be encouraged to try out everything they see, starting with a welcoming flat-threshold doorway. Jim and Sarah have renovated their 1960s home so that they can continue to enjoy their active, engaged lifestyle. Visitors can sit in a power-lifted chair, handle easy-to-use-kitchen utensils, scoot around the kitchen on a wheeled chair to try out lower counters, operate an easy-open window, sit in a fully-adjustable desk chair at an ergonomically-designed desk, and observe wall colors and lighting that ameliorate the impact of changing vision. The bath will feature a walk-in shower and reinforced wall for grab bars. Visitors will learn about a Fall Guard alert system, auto-dispensers for medications, special environmental controls, and tools and technologies that allow Jim and Sarah to do the activities they enjoy and keep them connected to the world.
Through notes between Jim and Sarah and brief videos, visitors will be privy to the challenging decision-making process that the couple went through during the renovation and what they especially appreciate about the design features of their transformed home.
MuseumPublicity: "Goldstein Museum of Design Presents Smart House Livable Community Your Future"
MPRnews: "U of M exhibit looks at making old age more livable"
"Explore Aging in Place at the 'Smart House' Exhibition" by Bill Holm at Herman Miller
"Preview/Review (Mar 10 to Mar. 30)" by Adam Overland at University Relations