Update you browser

For the best experience, we recommend you update your browser. Visit our accessibility page for a list of supported browsers. Alternatively, you can continue using your current browser by closing this message.

Designing for an Ageing Population, Dec 2022

Learn innovative methodologies and frameworks to design services, products and environments for older adults at this in-person masterclass led by Colum Lowe, Director of Design Age Institute.

Key details


  • Regular fee: £900


  • Location: Battersea campus

    1.5 days in person

    Day 1: 27 November 2023 (start after lunch 1–5pm GMT)

    Day 2: 28 November 2023 (10am – 5pm GMT)

    A small number of subsidised places are available for those working in the public and charitable sectors. If you would like to discuss, please contact us at [email protected]

The UK's population is ageing, and this older population is holding an ever increasing percentage of national assets and household spend. So, why are so few organisations - public, private and charitable - designing for what older adults want, rather than what they're perceived to need?

Over 50s already hold 70% of all household wealth in the UK but by 2040 over 55’s will account for 63p in every pound spent. Designing for this market not only makes moral sense, but also commercial sense.

The professional development masterclass aims to provide a unique insight into the ageing marketplace, looking at how to design products, services and experiences that are not limited by the pervasive medical discourse of ageing as decline, frailty and burden.

Using design thinking and innovation frameworks we will cover:

  • what drives behaviour and purchase motivation
  • the basics of action psychology
  • how design has an important role to play in creating healthier, happier lives for all of us as we age.

This professional development masterclass is led by Colum Lowe, Director of Design Age Institute and RCA Honorary Fellow. Guest speakers for 2023 will be announced soon. 2022 guest speakers included Dr Anthony Howarth from Oxford University’s Institute of Population Ageing and Ailsa Forbes & Lily Parsey from the International Longevity Centre UK.

A small number of subsidised places are available for those working in the public and charitable sectors. If you would like to discuss, please contact us at [email protected].

Want to learn more?

Colum Lowe explains how the masterclass will introduce participants to both the challenges and opportunities of designing for and with an ageing population in this RCA news story here.

About the course

Designing for an Ageing Population 2023 speakers

Course team

Colum Lowe, Director, Design Age Institute

Colum Lowe 2

Colum is a senior design leader with a significant track record of developing inclusive products and services in the private, public and charitable sectors. He has been Head of Design at a range of organisations, including the Ministry of Justice, Sainsbury’s, Homebase and the NHS National Patient Safety Agency, where he delivered a multi-partner programme to advance the patient safety agenda for the NHS.

Colum has worked closely throughout his career with marginalised user groups, including those with age-related physical and mental frailty. His experience includes running the design firms Crabtree Hall and CaulderMoore, as well as his own consultancy and founding the Independent Safeguarding Service CIC. Colum also spent 15 years helping the Design Council to develop and deliver its flagship design intervention programme, Designing Demand. He holds an MBA in Design Management from the University of Westminster and originally trained as a product designer at Chelsea School of Art.

Dr. Vivien Burrows, Senior Research Fellow, International Longevity Centre

Dr Vivien Burrows

Vivien joined the ILC in December 2022 as a Senior Research Fellow. Before this, she worked as an Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Reading. Vivien has a PhD in Economics from the University of York, which she completed in 2012.

Vivien has a particular interest in household financial decision-making and financial wellbeing, and how wealth transfers between family members affect the accumulation of wealth and wealth inequalities. She is also interested in the causes behind the differences in retirement income between men and women, and how this gender pension gap has evolved over time.

Her recent work includes a book chapter on ‘Families, housing and economic security’, published in the Routledge edited volume Families, Housing and Property Wealth in a Neoliberal World, and a participatory research project exploring the impact of young onset dementia on financial wellbeing. Vivien has also been working on a textbook on the economics of the public sector for Oxford University Press, which includes dedicated chapters on healthcare, and ageing and pensions.


Carly Dickson, Access Consultant, Arup

Carly Dickson 2

Carly is a designer, researcher and advocate focused on creating and promoting radically accessible, wildly engaging experiences for people of all ages and abilities. She is an Access Consultant on Arup’s Accessible and Inclusive Environment’s team and co-leads a Design Think Tank at the London School of Architecture.

Carly previously worked on Design Age Institute’s team as a Knowledge Exchange Fellow in 2022, sharing the Institute’s work and supporting new opportunities to collaboratively create more desirable products, services, and environments that enable healthy and happy ageing.

Prior to joining Design Age Institute, Carly worked across various design and research roles, most recently as an architectural designer at Alison Brooks Architects and as the co-author and designer of the book Just Living: Homes for Our Future Selves. She has also worked as a design researcher for the MIT AgeLab and an inclusive design consultant for Motionspot.

Carly graduated with a Masters in Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2017 and a B.A. in Architectural Theory from Harvard College in 2012.


Dr. Anthony Howarth, Research Fellow, Institute of Population Ageing

Anthony Howarth

Dr Anthony Howarth is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Population Ageing, a Research Associate at University College, and a Research Affiliate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, at the University of Oxford. His current research

focuses on how the relationship between design, place-making, and intergenerational living might enable healthy ageing through improving well-being and tackling loneliness. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this project examines whether, and in what ways, architectural design and intergenerational programs can facilitate beneficial relationships between different generations and, in doing so, enhance their health and quality of life. He is also interested in interventionism as an ethnographic object of study.

Anthony has a long-term interest in ‘nomads’ and the broader socio-political conditions in which they live. In this context, he has conducted research with Travellers and Gypsies in Europe and Tibetan ‘nomadic’ pastoralists/traders in Far- West Nepal. Beyond academia, he has worked with NGOs and legal actors on policy-related issues affecting Travellers and Gypsies.

Course contributors

Tracy Sharp, Senior Design Manager, Design Age Institute

Tracy Sharp 2

Tracy is a Senior Design Manager and has over 15 years of experience in engineering, manufacturing and product development for household name brands.

Managing the design projects being funded by the Design Age Institute, Tracy will provide insights, direction and coaching to the entrepreneurs using her rich experience in developing products to production.

As a design engineer Tracy has worked in many industries honing her expertise in design and developed her role into leadership. Her interest in inclusivity has been enhanced by her experience of working as a woman in a male dominated field, and as an expatriate working in Asia and Europe.

She trained to become a coach to empower underrepresented people and started her business, SharpMinds in 2022.


Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, Author of Wiser: The Scientific Roots of Wisdom, Compassion, and What Makes Us Good

Dilip V. Jeste

Dilip V. Jeste, M.D. is Director of the Global Research Network on Social Determinants of Mental Health, President-Elect of the World Federation for Psychotherapy, and Editor-in-Chief of the International Psychogeriatrics. He is Former Senior Associate Dean for Healthy Aging and Senior Care and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at University of California San Diego, where he worked for 36 years.

Dr. Jeste has been Principal Investigator on a number of research and training grants, mostly from the NIH and VA. His main areas of research include schizophrenia, neuropsychiatric interventions, and healthy ageing. He has published 14 books, including “Wiser”, “Positive Psychiatry”, and “Successful Cognitive and Emotional Aging”, over 750 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and 160+ invited book chapters. He is Past President of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, West Coast College of Biological Psychiatry, and Founding President of International College of Geriatric Psychoneuropharmacology.

He has also received Honorary Fellowship, the highest honour it bestows, from UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists; and Honorary Professorship from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru. He has been a TEDMED speaker. His work has been cited in Time, The Atlantic, New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The London Times, Public Radio International, NPR, and various other national and international media outlets.

By 2050 the global population of those 65 years and above is estimated to double from 727 million today to 1.5 billion. We are expected not only to live longer lives, but also more diverse lives requiring designers, manufacturers, and service providers to reconsider how they target and support this market segment. 

This growth in the ageing population has created national concern about the ongoing affordability of care services and increased pressure on the NHS, but if industry developed products and services that people actually wanted, that helped them stay healthier and happier for longer, this would not necessarily be the case.

In the EU, people aged 50 plus consumed €3.7 trillion worth of goods and services in 2015, this is projected to rise to €5.7 trillion by 2025. Over 50s already hold 70% of all household wealth in the UK but by 2040 over 55’s will account for 63p in every pound spent. Designing for this market not only makes moral sense, but also commercial sense.

Session 1 - Demography and Ageing

Discover the makeup of the ageing economy in terms of demographics, psychographics and purchase behaviours. Dig into the latest research from Oxford University’s Institute for Population Ageing.

Session 2 - Being User Centred

Understand the important role design can play in solving some of the common problems of ageing, and also its role in exacerbating them, by taking a human centred, inclusive design approach and considering how to design for your future self. 

Session 3 - Healthy Ageing Innovation

Explore the barriers that prevent potentially valuable health benefiting products, services and activities either getting to market or being adopted by their intended audiences.

The benefits to you and your organisation include:

  • access to global best practice
  • a deeper understanding of both the demographics and psychographics of ageing and how this impacts the longevity economy
  • empathic understanding of older adult users/customers and be ready to start ‘designing for your future self’
  • return to your organisation with innovative new techniques and strategies to put into practice
  • experience critical, creative and insightful thinking
  • interact and network with peers from different backgrounds and functions
  • a certificate of attendance.

You will learn:

  • how to apply innovation methodology and frameworks to create better customer products, services and experiences
  • real world applications of innovation and how it is transforming organisations
  • creative design techniques.

Learning takes place over 1.5 days in person on campus in London.

The course includes:

  • lectures and guest talks
  • team workshops
  • feedback from facilitators
  • resources, e.g. journal articles, videos and case studies

You will come away from this course with:

  • a deep insight of the ageing economy
  • an understanding of design thinking and age inclusive design
  • a framework to understanding the innovation process
  • a tool to evaluate good and bad design

Anyone interested in developing an empathy for older adults and exploring age inclusive design thinking techniques and principles.

From industry

  • Executive Directors
  • Marketers
  • R&D Leads
  • Healthy ageing entrepreneurs and innovators

From the public sector

  • Directors of customer experience
  • Service design leads
  • Service planners and commissioners
  • Transformation Leads

From education

  • Incubator Directors
  • Accelerator Directors
  • Course leaders
  • Students or graduates

This course will be delivered face to face at our new flagship building in Battersea.


RCA Executive Education will continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation in the period up to the course dates.

Our planning incorporates the latest Government guidance as well as consideration of how best to ensure a safe and inclusive learning space for participants and staff team.

Our participants health, wellbeing and quality of experience while attending our on-campus courses is paramount to us.

Full details of the Covid safe guidelines in place for the course will be provided to you in advance of your start date with your welcome information.

Disclaimer: Change to online delivery

It may be necessary due to Covid-19 restrictions to change the mode of delivery to live online.

We will endeavour to notify all participants in advance of any changes, no later than 2 weeks before the course start date.

Terms & conditions apply.

Design Age Institute is the UK’s national strategic unit for design and the healthy ageing economy. We bring together designers, businesses, researchers and communities to help address the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society.

At Design Age Institute, we teach design thinking for an ageing population, training leaders from the public, private and charitable sectors who need to innovate within their organisations. In contrast to standard, linear approaches that build on tested models, design thinking is creatively structured, analytic and responsive. It draws in diverse disciplines and multiple areas of expertise and exploration, starting with the core premise that everything is a design problem.

Design Age Institute

Course team


Contact us

Get in touch with Jo Chounta if you'd like to find out more about this or any of our other short courses.

Email us at
[email protected]
Executive Education Team