Designing for the Retirement Boom
As 77 million baby boomers near retirement, companies across all industries are building products to suit the generation's changing needs.
GE Builds Empathy
Marc Hottenroth, Industrial Design Leader for GE, leads a group of young designers in an empathy session, restricting their movement, hearing, and vision to help them better understand the aging population. "If something is easier for a 65-year-old to use, it's going to be easier for a 35-year-old to use," he says."
A Retirement-Ready Kitchen
GE's single double wall oven stands at a height that is ergonomically easier for a senior to use. "There's no awkwardly stretching over the stove to take that turkey out of the oven," Hottenroth says.
Boeing's Cabin Makeover
Pete Guard, Boeing's Cabin-experience strategy leader, is working to increase comfort on flights by making simple aspects like lavatory doors and overhead bin latches more intuitive. "We're replacing those bifold doors with panel doors. No more standing there, trying to figure out how to open them."
Flying High
When Boeing's much-delayed 787 Dreamliner finally makes it to the runway, the interior will feature wide aisles, dynamic lighting, and larger lavatories. "We don't want to make boomers feel less than capable--they're independent. These changes serve them, and all our passengers, better," says Guard.
MIT's Agelab Packs on the Years
Rozanne Puleo and Lisa D'Ambrosio of MIT Agelab use a suit called AGNE--Age Gain Now Empathy System--to understand the needs of seniors. "There's a booming older adult population, and that has significant implications for how we live as a society. We all have to maintain our qualities of life," says D'Ambrosio.
Shopping Around
To understand the older population, MIT students wore the suit for everyday tasks, like grocery shopping. "They found it challenging to locate items--low sodium, low fat--that are commonly purchased by older adults. That's valuable information for us," says Puleo.
Volvo's Crash-Free Future
Thomas Broberg, senior safety adviser at Volvo, is helping the company reach an goal: "By 2020, no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo," he says. Broberg has examined the behavioral differences of older drivers and younger drivers to build automobiles that can cater to the needs of both groups.
Smart Cars
Volvo's XC60, shown here, and the S60 feature collision avoidance technology--if it senses a collision and there is no reaction from the driver, it will warn the driver and automatically apply the brakes. "We're giving cars senses," says Broberg. "The next step is to get them talking to one another and everything around them."