Design Age Institute was established in 2020 to support the UK Government’s Grand Challenge on an Ageing Society. The Institute’s mission is to amplify the voice of people as they age and create a thriving economy for aspirational products and services that support healthy ageing.
The institute invited Pentagram to join experts in architecture, design for ageing and computing from Northumbria University to identify opportunities for products and furniture to support home working in later life. Shifts in working patterns and advances in technology have led to many people working primarily from home in later life, however, the design of most typical homes does not meet the needs of older adults if they are to work effectively and remain productive beyond retirement age.
The project used co-design methodology working with older people as well as health professionals. The co-design workshops identified a range of issues that affect home working including flexibility to work in multiple locations, access to light, power and storage, the ability to convert a room to and from a workspace and access to exercise and regular breaks.
The Northumbria University team led by Professor of Architecture, Paul Jones, developed architectural design solutions that addressed the challenges. The resulting project: Home Office to Age in Place—is an integrated flexible working space that can be built into homes to allow independent working. The design provides pop-out desk space, storage, power, lighting and even exercise space that can be accessed when required and hidden when not needed.
Pentagram developed two furniture elements to fit with the overall scheme, a moveable caddy for flexible storage and power and a concept for mobile lighting, power and storage that allows any table to be converted into a proper workstation. Lighting was identified as a huge issue for home working as lack of access to lighting and power prevents the freedom of choice to work anywhere in the home.
The Light-Block design uses ‘screen bar’ lighting technology, a linear LED lamp which can be positioned close to a computer screen or laptop to provide precise lighting that allows the use of screen and paperwork simultaneously. Multiple levels of adjustment allow for task lighting as well as lighting for video calls. The LED lamp is dimmable and adjustable for colour temperature. The built-in battery can directly power a laptop or other accessory and provides a stable base as well as an area for storage. The controls have all been developed to be easy to use for older adults—the power socket includes a special button to aid with the removal of the plug.
The work has been exhibited at the Design Museum in London, and Northumbria University is working with Design Age Institute to design a purpose-built Home Office to Age in Place for older residents in South Seaham Garden Village, County Durham which gives the opportunity to prototype solutions for furniture, lighting and smart technology which support people to live and work well in their own homes.