Friday, December 10, 2010

What are Boomer demanding? BEAUTY!

Hong KongImage by Always at Home via Flickr
Beauty in Chinese Meat Market
What are boomer demanding?  Well, it turns out that function is not this age where our basic needs are met, we are demanding beauty and lots of it!

I have know all my life that beautiful things actually have a  emotional impact on my mind and I could actually feel a physical response. Yesterday I found an article written by Patrick Roden PhD  on a website called Aging In Place.  The name of the article was "The Aesthetic of Aging in Place Design:  Turning Obstacles into Beauty"  He put his finger on what this blog is all about and as a result the words resonated with me like no others. I thought you might be interested in what he had to say.

In his article Dr. Roden talked about that emotional impact I mentioned above...
Author Virginia Postrel notes that aesthetics is the way we communicate through the senses. It is the art of creating reactions without words, through the look and feel of people, places, and things. In other words, aesthetics shows rather than tells, delights rather than instructs. The effects are immediate, perceptual, and emotional.  
So whether we wake in the bedroom in our own home or a room in an assisted living facility, the beauty that surrounds us actually has a emotional uplifting effect on our mind.  Roden's idea that we can turn obstacles into beauty made me envision wheel chairs with rhinestones and bath tub grab bars with a zebra designs!  When my own mother required a wheel chair, her response was Can I have one in Red? Even the walker beside the bed could be a wonderful addition to the beauty of any room.  The beauty we surround ourselves with is not a frivolous want but in fact a emotional need.

A Pond worth floating on!
As a youngster my family fished.  I am not a fisherman but I do love the beauty of sparkling water and the sound of shore birds.  My father heard me say many time that the reservoir set in a dry desolate valley didn't meet my aesthetic requirements.  But now I realize that my beauty was not his...each of us has a different aesthetic and sees beauty in a different way.  Color, design and function as related to beauty are not ruled by a set of parameters but are instead guided by each individuals emotional reaction to those things.  So when we talk about the aging person and the setting in which they spend their days, it seems to me that their emotional well-being may depend on their aesthetic needs being addressed.

Roden's final paragraph even talked about a physical reaction to beauty and how manufacturers of products to overcome obstacles are going to have to address not only function but aesthetics:
Inexpensive beauty!
In order for age-friendly product developers to compete and survive in the booming mature market place they need to design not only for function, but to delight the senses with non-stigmatizing design. They must understand that we buy on deep biological emotion.
I have written about hearing aids (Cool Hearing Aids) that not only work but LOOK very cool.  I have talked about small spaces becoming sanctuaries of beauty when we need to downsize.  Roden pointed out that since we are so affluent, we can afford to go beyond function and require that the obstacle become a thing of beauty...even when the object serves a not so beautiful function!

So heads up all you manufacturers fulfilling the needs of the aging boomers...if you are going to produce walkers for handicapped individuals, build assisted living facilities or craft golf clubs for seniors, the product had better work and be absolutely gorgeous or we will looks somewhere else!  If you are the person that helps with a seniors care, you need to demand the elements of beauty they need.  If you are like me and make your own decisions, take some time each and every day to enjoy the beauty around you.  It is requited!!!


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