Sidse Carroll is a Research Fellow who has years of experience in ageing research with a particular focus on co-design with older people.
Her research interests include participatory and collaborative practices and how design and design processes can serve as enablers that give older people a voice when shaping the future. Her research focuses on presenting diversity in ageing and to bring the many resources of the ageing population into the design discipline.
Her research interests are focused on the built environment and the spatial aspects of growing old, including social and physical dimensions of homes, neighbourhoods and public spaces. In her PhD, she explored co-design of age-friendly cities and communities with a specific focus on the methodological investigations and the role of participatory design methods in practice-based community design with low income older people.
She holds a Master of Arts in Architecture from Aarhus School of Architecture (2011) and a PhD degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen (2020) and is currently part of the Design Age Institute.
Design for ageing: Beyond stereotypes to lived experience
Sidse Carroll, Royal College of Art, United Kingdom
The global population is rapidly ageing, and there is an increasing focus on older people being considered a contributing resource, rather than a societal burden. Ageing populations are diverse, and so requires design to understand and reflect this diversity. Defining people by chronological age often means segmenting them into age groups (e.g. 65+, in your 80s, etc.), or generational cohorts such as ‘the baby boomers’ and ‘the greatest generation’. These constructed groups leave little space for diversity, even though older populations are much more diverse than younger populations, in terms of capacity and health. This is not conducive to understanding what an individual ageing person wants, desires and requires from design solutions.
Perceptions of ageism and ageing stereotypes can significantly affect how ageing is understood in design, across different scales from the individual to society. Historically, design as a problem-solving practice has adopted a medical view on ageing, so responding to older people as patients in need of assistive aids and devices. These responses then reaffirm ageist stereotypes, through the products and services designed, as well as the language used to describe them. Designers should consider to what extent the types of products, their aesthetics, and the environments in which they are used by older people can influence, negatively or positively, societal perceptions of them as well as perceptions of themselves.
We discuss the potential for design research to identify more accurate and nuanced types and typologies of ageing, rather than reproducing old and outdated stereotypes. So, how to move towards understanding and presenting ageing people in more diverse ways. Furthermore, how design research methods contribute to studying and reflecting this diversity and different types of ageing. Therefore, we consider ageing stereotypes, negative and positive, moving beyond them towards typologies of ageing for designing inclusively, reflecting real lived experiences of current and future generations of older people.
This naturally requires including older people in design research, and utilising their diverse lived experiences as a resource. We argue this will provide a better approach to understanding ageing when creating preferable design solutions. Furthermore, this could help change the narratives of ageing in design and subsequently within society.