Design Age Institute: the UK’s first national design-for-ageing Institute

In   a joint venture between  the Royal College of Art, University of Oxford and University of Newcastle, the UK’s first national design-for-ageing Institute has been announced.

The Design Age Institute, which received a £4.5 million grant from Research England, will provide a collaboration between the RCA, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing and  the National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University. The International Longevity Centre UK and Design Museum, London will also work with the team  to create the UK’s first national design-for-ageing hub. This will identify opportunities for design-led innovation, build a national network and activate a series of demonstrator projects. This three-year programme will directly address the challenges of an ageing society, one of the most pressing issues for the UK’s Industrial Strategy in a Covid environment. It will bring together a network of top design teams from across the UK to address the key challenges.

The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, RCA, Director, Rama Gheerawo said:

“This award recognises the centrality of inclusive design in dealing with the challenge of an ageing society. The current pandemic only highlights the challenge that will affect how we build our homes, how we work and travel, and what products and services we will use in the future.”

Professor Sarah Harper, CBE, Director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing said:

“We are delighted to work as partners with our long standing colleagues in the RCA and Newcastle on this exciting initiative.  Moving forward the physical and digital environment within which we live, work and communicate will be the focus of healthy ageing across the life course. The DAI strongly complements the social science research carried out at Oxford on population ageing”. ”

The new institute will address two important areas: first, homes and neighbourhoods to enable people to age well in place, reducing reliance on health and social care services; second, work and workplace, enabling longer working lives and greater economic independence.

Britain has a rapidly ageing population. In 20 years, a quarter of the UK’s population will be over 60 – which presents a range of new challenges and opportunities. The Research England award recognises that design for ageing in the UK has been fragmented and the research base in UK universities under-utilised.

Alice Frost, Director of Knowledge Exchange at Research England, said:

“Research England’s investment in the Design Age Institute will help switch business and the public sector to provide products and services that really meet the needs and aspirations of the customer, as well as great aesthetics and user experiences. Research England is also pleased to be able to showcase the importance of design in innovation, and to support collaboration between universities across the country.”

The Design Age Institute has recently recruited  a Director, Colum Lowe who  has held senior creative positions leading on inclusive and healthcare design at the NHS, The Design Council, Sainsbury’s and, most recently, the Ministry of Justice.