User Requirements of Furniture Influenced by a Move to a Senior Housing Focus Group Interviews on Changes for People in the Third Age

Oskar Jonsson, Lena Sperling, Britt Östlund, Elisabeth Dalholm Hornyánszky
2012 unpublished
User requirement of furniture influenced by a move to a senior housing Abstract User-centred design approaches within the field of furniture design for old people involves an act of embracing and balancing various end-user needs and assessing their relative importance for the product experience. It is often assumed that older people's physiological needs dominate their other needs. In the present study, three focus group interviews were carried out with the exploratory purpose of gaining an
more » ... e of gaining an understanding of how people feel and think about changes when moving to and living in an apartment in senior housing, outside the housing market, and what impact this has on their opinions of furniture and other interior products. Twelve people aged 59-93 took part. The outcomes of the focus group interviews point to demands on products that support the physical, psychological and social changes that relocation and aging may bring, and correspond to an independent and self-determinant identity. User requirements related to usability and affective product experience for the design of totally new or improved products are proposed. The paper discusses the complexity in the research assignment to communicate and bring end-user knowledge and experiences to life, and suggests that designers will benefit from carrying out or being involved in user-centred research. Keywords: furniture design, user experiences, aging population, user-centred design, people in the third age Introduction What does a furniture designer need to know about older people's needs and requirements? This paper addresses the question of the needs that arise when people in late middle age/the third age leave a home where they lived for most of their adult life and move to a smaller dwelling. The aim is to contribute to design-relevant knowledge about older end-users' needs and aspirations for the design of furniture. How do they think and reflect concerning furniture and other interior products when they change homes? What are their needs, wishes and aspirations? The relocation in focus is that of moving to and living in a newly built apartment in senior housing, outside the housing market, that has been particularly developed to fit the needs of seniors. What impact does this relocation have on old people's experiences, opinions and attitudes about furniture and other interior products? A well-known conclusion drawn from demographic studies is that the proportion of old people in the populations of industrial countries is growing. Between 2005 and 2050, in the more developed regions, the population aged 60 or over is expected to nearly double (United Nations, 2007). This expected situation is a new one for societies: People now live longer, and are healthy and active longer than in any previous age, while many citizens are entering the third age phase of life. The third age is a tentative concept articulated by Peter Laslett (1991) in order to capture new lifestyles among older people. The division between the third age and the second and forth age do not come at birthdays, nor do they even lie within clusters of years surrounding birthdays. The third age refers to the period when people fully or partially leave the job market, careers and the most demanding family obligations, but still live a life of relative independence of others' help and support (Laslett, 1991). The concept is used in this paper as a means to avoid thinking about biological age as a cohesive factor and to avert an out-of-date image of older people and the products they stereotypically benefit from.