Experience of furniture in homes: Creating conditions for the design with consideration to people in the third age

Abstract: This licentiate thesis in industrial design concerns the challenge and opportunity to meet the demographic changes and the future senior market. The aim is to explore how various user-centered design methods can be combined, modified and practiced to create conditions for the design of totally new or improved products. Design is understood as a process to develop solutions with the starting point in users’ needs. A user-centered design process, instead of a technology and market driven one, is believed to lead to products that are more desirable, useful, in line with users’ needs and contribute to long-term use. The product category in focus is furniture and other interior products and the context of use is the home. Two studies were carried out, one with focus group interviews about changes when moving to and living in a newly built apart¬ment particularly developed to fit the needs of seniors and one with situated interviews in homes. Both had the intention to identify various end-user needs. In total, 26 people aged 53-93 participated in the two studies. The focus group interviews emphasized views and attitudes towards, changes needs and aspirations. The situated interviews offered deeper insights and understanding of the interplay between user, products and the context where the products were used. The finding demonstrate that products perceived as comfortable, flexible and pleasurable lead to attachment and desirable emotional experiences such as dignity, meaningfulness and freedom. The findings about needs that the end-users themselves express differ from the existing recommendations for the design of furniture and other interior products for old people. The latter are mainly based on individual physiological changes that aging may bring. New findings point to demands on products that also support the psychological and social changes, and that correspond to an identity of an active, independent and self-determinant individual. The thesis concludes that designers may benefit from being closely involved in the creation of end-user knowledge to ensure that the findings are adequate for the present challenges’ specific needs and that the findings embrace a holistic perspective on humans’ needs. A future recommendation is to respond to the findings of the studies with design solutions as physical representations, and to involve users in iterative design processes.