Perspectives on "Novel" Techniques for Designing Age-Friendly Homes and Neighborhoods with Older Adults

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 10;17(5):1800. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17051800.


Worldwide, growth in the older population creates a pressing need to develop supportive environments that enhance quality of life as people age. Too often, built environments present barriers and challenges to older adults that compromise independent living and adversely affect health and life outcomes. Designing homes, buildings, and neighborhoods with older adults, through exercises in participatory or co-design, could help ensure that environments are better able to facilitate healthy aging. However, while it is potentially advantageous to involve this age group in environmental design decisions, doing so can be difficult. Analysis of and guidance on effective ways to involve older adults in these activities could make the challenge easier. With this aim in mind, this article provides critical perspectives on eight "less traditional" engagement techniques-walking interviews, photovoice, photo-elicitation, Talking Mats®, participatory mapping, drawing, model-making, and the "Design Fair". Insights into the strengths and limitations of these techniques, gained from observation of their use in participatory design activities, as well as feedback collected from older co-design participants, are presented. The article concludes by offering a number of practical recommendations for those interested in designing age-friendly homes and neighborhoods with older people.

Keywords: aging and housing; co-design; domestic design and technology; participatory design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design* / standards
  • Environment Design* / trends
  • Healthy Aging*
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / standards
  • Quality of Life*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Walking