Before this blog, I'd never heard the term "Third Age". I actually had to go look up the definition. I learned that "Third Age" is a term for the retired or elderly phase of a person's life. I guess you learned something new everyday.
But beyond the definition; what is the Third Age really about?
There's the good parts... Being retired (hopefully). The kids are out of the house. More freetime. A busier social life. Time to pick up hobbies. Spoiling the grandkids. And getting a sweet discount at Perkins. :)
But there's also the not-so-good parts... Less energy? Failing eyesight? Arthritis? Getting sick? Trouble getting around? Living alone?
A huge chunk of the population (the Baby Boomers--our parents) approaching their Third Age during next few decades. This means that the issues they face, the ways their lives change, and things they need/want will become a huge priority. And in many cases their changing lives, problems, and needs will be the job of the working generation--our generation--to address.
So now... how does this relate to design?
Well, a big part of it will be learning to design for people with physical problems that come with age. This includes problems like poor vision, mobility, and motor functions. Right now, designing to accommodate or ease these problems isn't the biggest priority. It seems to be more an act of kindness, rather than a requirement. It also seems to only be addressed in settings where it's really necessary (like nursing homes, hospitals, ect.) But when all the baby boomers have reached that age, it will become a priority. The number of people over the age of 65 is going to double in the next 25 years. Both for social reasons and economic reasons, design will need to keep up with them. (But I'll save the economic ones for another blog post.)
For example, I found an article that talked about design typography for people with vision impairments. I know many of us designers love our delicate, small point-size type. Well, that's a big no-no. Colored type on a colored background? No way. Italic type? Not so wise. Pretty, decorative typefaces? Don't even think about it. We as designers are going to have to realize we won't always have the luxury of making it pretty. We'll have to make it work.
Another article made a really interesting point. This generation probably isn't going to handle being "old" the way previous generations did. They're going to demand something much more stylish than your grandma's chunky, black orthopedic shoe. You know the ones I mean. They're not so stylish. And the baby-boomers won't think so either. So not only will they need design to meet their needs, they need design that is just as impressive as the stuff for the younger folks. Because of their sheer numbers, they'll be able to demand it. And if companies still want baby-boomer dollars rolling in, they'll need to have good-looking, quality, well-designed Third Age design flowing out.
But in almost all cases, designs that make information and products accessible Third Age individuals will make them more accessible to everyone. For example, OXO Good grips were designed for people with arthritis. But their ergonomic design made them easier to everyone to use. And because they're so attractively designed, today they're even used by professional chefs and can be found in almost every kitchen. So in lots of cases, the emphasis on good design for the Third Age will result in good design for everyone.
So start thinking about design for the Third Age.
Aries Arditi, Ph.D. Designing for People with Partial Sight.
Product Design for the Elderly. http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/columns/frog-design-mind-169097.php
A website all about design for people with vision impairments. http://www.lighthouse.org/accessibility/design/