James Joyce posits the idea: when we are in the presence of great beauty, our minds go still. We feed on aesthetics. Not only does it come into play in our private life but it also enhances our social interaction. If we are wearing or using a device that is aesthetically pleasing, not only do we feel good, but the person that sees you also experiences pleasure. So, if we are to believe the classic poet, we will want to select a gift or a device for an elderly relative or for ourselves that not only functions but is beautiful.
While our grandparents lived with just what was necessary, today’s boomer generation is accustomed to beauty at every turn. Even the groceries stores are designed to please the eye and increase the appetite. Those of us that are aging in this era want and expect that what we use is beautiful.In a talk given for TED several years ago, Denis Dutton talked about what beauty is. His talk on the Darwinian theory of beauty points out that we may all hold to a similar aesthetic. It seems that people in every culture love the idea of nature and the beauty of being surrounded by trees, water, living creatures and a pathway to the horizon. It could be that being “green” is just a built in code for beauty.In an article written by Patrick Roden called The Aesthetics of Aging in Place Design: Turning Obstacles into Beauty he talked about fulfilling the need of the elderly person. He said we need to select things not…
Roden sited Michael Graves’ designs for Target as a prime example of how we are drawn to beauty. His designs are all about making utilitarian things beautiful. Graves was confined to a wheelchair after a serious illness several years ago. He has since turned to designing hospital rooms and devices for people with limited mobility. His thoughts on his hospital experience reflect what most people feel.
“…only for function, but to delight the senses with non-stigmatizing design. [We] must understand that [the elderly need things designed to meet a] deep biological emotion.” Aging in Place
“I had really good care and really atrocious rooms,” Graves laughed. “I thought to myself, ‘I can’t die here. It’s too ugly.’” Culture Map, HoustonThis is right where I am. I would not want to use something, no matter how useful, that is ugly.So, if an older person is sitting in a wheelchair or carrying a monitor around his/her neck, why not find something beautiful or cool for them? A lovely magnifying glass for reading or a beautiful rolling shopping cart is only two examples. A beautifully feminine or steely masculine lanyard will make the monitor not only functional but also beautiful. I saw a folding cane that I think any man would find fascinating. It just takes some research to find the perfect item.I loved the quote by a Charles Limb, a surgeon that helps with hearing loss, in a TED presentation. He said:“When we think of the loss of the sense, we really think about something like this: the ability to touch something luxurious, to taste something delicious, to smell something fragrant, to see something beautiful.”Isn’t it interesting that even when our mind or hearing does not function like it should, our senses may still be able to feed our soul? It is a reminder that those things that bring the senses to life are important even for those that are becoming less aware. It is a thought!