Transgenerational Design: Design for Every Age
Michael J. Leonard, MA, IDSA; Wendy Krupnick, PhD, OTR/L; and David Kratzer, AIA, NCARB,
All education springs from images of the future and all education creates images of the future…
Unless we understand the future for which we are preparing we may do tragic damage to those
we teach. — Alvin Toffler
Three features - a long standing interdisciplinary collaboration, a university rapidly
developing ground-breaking approaches to innovative learning, and an educational mission to
inspire students to challenge status quo - formed the nucleus of an ongoing project to design for
all ages. This paper will describe results of recent interdisciplinary work at Philadelphia University.
It relates experiences developing in learners an awareness of all audiences. We will describe
what happened when we took the focus from the applications of technology and economy and
looked instead to applying our abilities to design for people of all ages. Technology will change,
the economy certainly must change, aging will remain constant. In this spirit, we asked the
questions: what happens when one re-designs a familiar environment from the perspective of
safety and comfort of users of every age? Moreover, how do you instruct a diverse group of
learners to respond to the demands aging places on practice?
The project, called the Summer Project on Aging, used a single space as its main example – the
home bathroom. Bathrooms are a locus of activity in most homes. In bathrooms serving users of
all ages, one finds many areas for design improvements. As a representative section of the
bathroom topic, the Summer Project used the vanity area comprised of the sink, faucets, counter,
backsplash, storage, mirror, lighting, and flooring. A team of disciplinary experts applied their
skills to studying, redesigning, and promoting designs for a vanity area that would meet the needs
of users from post potty-training age to the older members of a household. Narrowing the topic
space to the area around the vanity did not narrow the number of aspects that required study.
The project sought to study a transgenerational environment to isolate tools and practices that
would inform our teaching about design for all ages.