Consider these facts that will influence future workspace design:
1. In 2010 the first wave of baby boomers will turn 62
2. By 2020 16.5% of the American population will be over 65
3. By 2030 more than 70 million Americans will be over 65
This demographic shift is a real cause for concern to corporations who are worried about the effects this will have on the workforce which will increasingly consist of older workers who are not/yet ready to retire or who are forced to work well beyond the normal retirement age for economic reasons…and whom companies want to retain because of their experience, their value to the company and their brain power.
Design leaders are being challenged to create or modify workplaces that will accommodate the needs of the aging population and provide a workplace that takes into consideration the physical and sensory changes that older adults encounter.
Normal age related changes are:
- Hearing impairment
- Visual decline
- Balance/coordination difficulties
- Decreased strength
- Limited reach
- Difficulty bending
By focusing on these unique needs during the design process, practical yet innovative solutions can be successfully integrated into the design. While some of these changes might require sizable capital expenditures, some simple modifications that can be made to address the above needs at little or no expense:
- Increase volume of phones to assist those with hearing loss
- Enlarge typeface on computer screen to reduce eye strain
- Provide magnifying glasses to enlarge print
- Chairs designed for easy in-out
- Elevated worktables to prevent bending
- U-pull drawer hardware for easy gripping
- Handrails for balance
- Rounded countertop corners for safety
Forward thinking companies will be proactive in “diffusing this demographic time bomb”. They will understand impact and demands of the aging worker and address their unique needs. Thereby improving productivity and return on investment.
Early adopters who incorporate the concepts of “Designing Differently for the Older Worker” into their strategic business plans and the business leaders who implement these innovative improvements will have a distinct competitive advantage over those businesses that wait on the sidelines of this changing business landscape.