Inside

NEW OLD Exhibition at Design Museum Showcases Designs for Later Life

Created to mark the 30th anniversary of Helen Hamlyn’s pioneering New Design for Old exhibition at the V&A Boilerhouse, NEW OLD explores the potential for design to enhance the experience of later life. The exhibition looks at how innovative design can help people lead fuller, healthier, more rewarding lives into old age – and asks whether designers are ready to meet the future challenges of an ageing society. 

‘In the 30 years between the New Design for Old exhibition at the V&A’s Boilerhouse and the Design Museum’s decision to revisit the theme in 2017, both ageing and design have changed significantly,’ explained Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design and curator of the exhibition.                   

‘Our understanding of what it means to grow older has broadened, with dynamic ideas around healthy, social and active ageing starting to replace a passive model of the “elderly” confined to their own homes or institutional care. Similarly, horizons have expanded in design with the rise of digital technology, multidisciplinary team working and cultural as opposed to purely technical exploration. The NEW OLD show seeks to demonstrate that design can make a real difference to our experience of later life.’

The exhibition is organised in six sections – Ageing, Identity, Home, Community, Working and Mobility – taking the visitor through an introduction to the demographic shifts behind a rapidly ageing population and the key design challenges and opportunities of increased longevity. Each section features a special design commission by a leading designer or design team, many of whom are RCA alumni.

Clara Gaggero and Adrian Westaway, who were Research Associates at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) after graduating from the RCA, have created a living installation exploring ways in which participatory design experiences can tackle ageing stereotypes and stigma. The environment they have created encourages exhibition visitors to engage in conversation with an older adult, sparking meaningful dialogue and enriching exchanges of experience. Another interactive exhibit comes from IDEO, whose CEO is RCA alumnus Tim Brown. This display presents a speculative artificial intelligence platform for community wellness set 30 years in the future, which tackles a deadly public health epidemic: loneliness.

Exploring the theme of Home, design office Future Facility, formed by Kim Colin and RCA alumnus Sam Hecht, have created ‘Amazin apartments’. This installation demonstrates two sides of a serviced apartment; in one half an older person can enjoy the use of appliances and technology built into the walls, the other half is a service corridor, where a service company can restock the fridge, work the washing machine and control the heating without entering the apartment.

Also on display is the prototype of a new scooter design by Priestman Goode, whose chairman is RCA alumnus Paul Priestman, which explores the importance of mobility in later life. The scooter is a whole-life product that adapts with users' needs, transforming from the micro-scooter for the child to the older person’s mobility scooter.

Alumnus Konstantin Grcic has created an evocative installation for the exhibition inspired by a portrait of St Jerome in his Study (1475) by Antonello da Messina – one of the most iconic images of older people remaining productive at work. Head in the Sky is a galvanised, weatherproof structure that visitors can walk and sit on, which is both conceived as an outdoor space for working and thinking, and symbolises departure and new beginnings.

Other designs in the exhibition from RCA alumni include Duncan Fitzsimons’ Morph Wheel and Lise Pape’s Path, which was winner of an AXA PPP Health Tech & You Award in 2016 
for independent living. After graduating both Duncan and Lise developed their designs with the support of InnovationRCA. Several designs by Design Products alumni are featured, including Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh’s Sugru – a mouldable glue designed for fixing, making and improving tools and appliances – and Simon Kinneir’s range of everyday kitchen products that give sensory feedback to people with sight loss. Design Products alumnus Tomek Rygalik has created an installation for the exhibition, which explores beauty and ageing in the bathroom.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Jeremy Myerson and featuring essays from RCA alumni and staff. Contributors include Rama Gheerawo director of HHCD and RCA Reader in Inclusive Design, Professor Emeritus of the College and co-founder of the HHCD Roger Coleman, Director of the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre at the RCA Dale Harrow, Architecture graduate and visiting Research Fellow HHCD Yanki Lee and graduate Keiji Karahawa.


NEW OLD is open at the Design Museum from 12 January to 19 February, and is sponsored by the Helen Hamlyn Trust and AXA PPP healthcare, with additional support from Arthritis Research UK.

Full details can be found on the Design Museum website.

Two public discussions chaired by Jeremy Myerson will take place as part of the exhibition. On 24 January he will be joined by Adrian Westaway and Clara Gaggero, Sam Hecht and Dr Takanori Shibata; and on 7 February by Geraint Edwards of IDEO, Yves Behar and Paul Priestman.