In this policy statement we look at the growing need for engineers to take age into account when designing and planning equipment and systems.
It is part of an engineer’s role to ensure that the equipment and systems they develop and produce are suitable for use. In some cases this may be items of capital equipment, for example railways or aircraft, or in others widely used household equipment, such as washing machines or lawnmowers.
In all cases, designs must be appropriate now to a population containing an increasingly larger proportion of older people. In 1985, 15% of the population in the UK was over 65. This rose to 17% by 2010 and is projected to reach 23% by the year 2035. It is therefore ever more important that we take age into account in our design and planning.
In our policy statement we make the following key recommendations:
1. Government and industry must ensure that all major contracts for public infrastructure have an earmarked budget to cater for older users and customers.
2. The UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, should put out a call for bids to create state-of-the-art design initiatives for older user-friendly ideas and products.
3. Companies developing household products, vehicles or other devices for mainstream use should introduce quotas in product design teams, to include, wherever possible, a significant minority of older people – some of whom may be retired professional engineers.
4. Standards relating to engineering products should also be reviewed to ensure that they are keeping pace with the needs of their ever-growing application to older people in the UK and the rest of the world.
5. Universities, colleges and industry should ensure that training of engineers and designers includes information about the functional abilities and restrictions of older people.