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Accelerator: Workshop 2 Report from Table 4 – Compensation – Design not stigma Lead: Peter Riddell

Posted by Anja McCarthy (Admin) 1 month ago Posted in Innovation for Ageing Workshops



How might we design products and homes in such a way that they incorporate age inclusive functionality?


How might we influence designers to assist in the development of products that do not have the stigma of being specifically for an older person?


This table attracted 12 participants initially, with 3 post grad design students from Northumbria Uni joining the group for the final task. The group had a varied membership, including members of VOICE, a housing organisation and a small business.


The first two exercises consisted in identifying a number of compensation tools (aids) and then the group placed the identified tools / aids into common groups


The groups identified were:

  • Mobility aids
  • Communication devices
  • Remote / voice activated technology
  • Self-care
  • Sensory products
  • Home adaptions
  • Building design


The next exercise was aimed at identifying issues with some of the identified compensation tools / aids.


Compensation tool / aid


Bath / shower seat


Difficult to clean

Ugly design

Take up lots of space

Slippery surface

Prevents other people using the bath

Grab rail (inside and outdoors)

Only available in white

Ugly design

Stigma / indicates vulnerability

Doesn’t blend in with surroundings

No options around materials used

Care alarms

Subscription costs

Weekly tests required


Can be accidentally activated

Zimmer Frames



One colour

Hard to use on public transport

Hard to manoeuvre

Too wide

Limits stride length

Access Ramps

Ugly / eyesore

Not always appropriate (issue is often with threshold height of the door)

Stigma / Indicates vulnerability

Take up a lot of space

Large button telephone

Old fashioned design

Speed dial buttons are often too small

Stigma associated with ownership

Look like a toy

Hearing aids

Visible and large (smaller in ear options are beyond many people’s budget)

Short battery life

Poor design aesthetically

Difficult to integrate with other audio appliances



The final part of the workshop was focused on ideation. The several ideas were explored and two were selected by the group for presentation.


  1. The “Activity Frame” : A redesigned more practical alternative to a Zimmer frame.  The group felt that the Zimmer fame has a stigma both with regards to the design and the name.  The function of a walking aid is to enable the user to be more active, so the group thought that the name Activity Frame was more representative and appropriate.


  • Selection of colours to be available
  • Collapsible design to enable safe use on public transport (narrow gangways) and ease of storage
  • Use of small balls on the feet to replace the bulky wheeled design


  1. “Flexi Grab”: Another compensation tool that was considered by the group to have a stigma associated to it was the grab rail (both inside and outside of the home).   One member of the group commented that a grab rail next to a front door “screamed old person living here”!


The group suggested a grab rail that could be recessed into the wall when not in use, which they named “Flexi Grab”. 


  • Selection of colours and materials to blend in with the design of the property
  • Flexi Grab rail recesses into the wall when not in use
  • External Flexi Grab rails could be illuminated to act as a night light adjacent to external doors
  • Another suggestion for the Flexi Grab rail was to incorporate a permanent rail into the design of a canopy over the exterior design of a property.  This would provide the functionality of a traditional grab rail but without the property appearing to have been adapted for an older person


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