Growing old and back again: testing for accessibility

December 22Ergonomics, Quality of motionLiving room, Kitchen
Frau in einem orangen Anzug von Blum, schwarzen Handschuhen und einem Visier steht in einem Raum aus Holzwänden
Architect Julia Kick has breathed new life into an old wooden barn and is now living with her family in this renovated building. With the help of Blum requirements research and the AgeExplorer®, she discovers how ageing could affect her life there.

A building steeped in history

Once, the barn was filled with horse boxes. The hay cart brought feed and straw for the animals through the large gate. Today, this historic building is home to the Kick family; independent architect Julia Kick renovated the barn with enormous care and turned the old building into a home for her husband and children.

Ein Haus mit einem braunen Dach, einer Holzwand und einem großen Fenster

But can the old barn remain their home forever? Together with Blum requirements researcher Sandra, Julia wants to find out – in an experiment with the . The two plan to use the special age simulator suit to take a look into the future.

The AgeExplorer® allows Julia to experience the world of people with physical limitations. Taking a tour around her house, she can put the architecture and equipment to the test, specifically with regard to ageing. She can experience first-hand where improvements need to be made in order to make her home ready for old age. "It won't be so bad," she laughs.

You have to take a common sense approach to building design, ensure sustainability and also consider possible future use.Julia Kick, Architect
Eine Frau mit blonden Haaren und weißem T-Shirt hilft einer anderen Frau mit kurzen, braunen Haaren einen orangenen Overall anzuziehen

The transformation – from young to old

"How old am I now then?" Julia wants to know as she puts on the straps which simulate stiff elbows and knee joints. The answer is vague: the suit does simulate the physical limitations that typically occur with age, but everyone experiences things differently, depending on their fitness and physical condition.

"So around 20 years older," says Sandra while filling the pockets of the orange overalls with around 5.5 kg of weights. Special ear muffs, glasses that simulate age-related farsightedness and a visor which restricts your field of vision complete the experience. Now she just needs to put on the arthritis gloves and Julia is ready for the experiment.

Eine Person in einem orangenen blum Anzug, auch AgeExplorer®-Anzug genannt, versucht sich zu bücken und etwas vom Boden aufzuheben
An expedition through her own everyday lifeJulia wants to understand the challenges that physical limitations can pose in your day-to-day home environment.
Eine Person streckt sich nach einer Schüssel, die auf dem oberen Rand eines Schranks steht
Eine Person läuft in einer Wohnung die Treppen mit einem orangenen Anzug, auch AgeExplorer®-Anzug genannt, hoch

She tests various everyday situations from her day-to-day life in her kitchen – for example, she attempts to prepare a salad whilst wearing the AgeExplorer®. The arduous task of reaching for the salad bowl is particularly hard. "," groans Julia.

Even pouring a coffee is unexpectedly difficult. As she bends down to put away toys, she thinks to herself: "Even without the suit, this was strenuous. It makes you understand how important ergonomics is as we age."

Accessibility in building construction: designing a home with ageing in mind

Accessibility in building construction is the technical term that came about from Julia's experiences during the experiment; the art of designing a house in such a way that people with physical limitations could live there with ease. Anyone building or renovating a home who thinks about including accessibility in the design will eliminate the need for compromise solutions at a later date.

All of these aspects should be considered:

Ein heller Garderobenbereich mit viel Platz und Stauraum.

The magic word when it comes to accessibility in building construction is "flexibility". When planning the equipment, it is important to create space for future changes. Stairs, doors and wardrobes should be wide enough to be comfortably accessible with physical aids in future. Even if this space is initially used to store pushchairs or as a storage space for school bags.

Eine belebte Küche. Ein Mädchen sitzt am Boden und sieht zu einer älteren Frau hoch, die auf einem SPACE STEP von Blum steht und aus einem Hochschrank mit AVENTOS lächelnd eine Schüssel entnimmt. Auf der Kochinsel gegenüber des Hochschranks stehen verschiedene Kochutensilien. Im Hintergrund spielen ein Mann und ein Junge Ball und eine Frau befestigt ein Bild an der Wand.

Items stored at the top or on top of a cabinet are more difficult to reach with age – Julia discovered this too when she was searching for a salad bowl. Climbing on a chair carries a huge risk of injury. A plinth solution such as the Blum SPACE STEP offers a safe alternative; the plinth area contains a stable step and an additional, storage space.

Eine Frau schließt mit dem Knie eine Blum-Schublade. Im Möbel sind in Orange die technischen Finessen der Führungen und Boxsysteme hervorgehoben.

As muscle strength decreases, even small movements become challenging. This is why we have developed helpful solutions such as the Blum SERVO-DRIVE or TIP-ON BLUMOTION; the electrical or mechanical opening support system enables cabinets to be opened easily with a light touch. What may seem like an added luxury today can be a huge help in old age.

Julia's conclusion

The experiment is over – and Julia is exhausted. "I never would've thought that this simulation could be so impressive," says Julia, visibly impressed. "These new insights will help me to look again at some of the details in my plans, to question and examine them in a different way. We always focus heavily on our clients' needs. But being able to experience such limitations for myself was a really valuable experience for me."

Architektin Julia Kick

At a glance: accessibility in building construction

  • Plan in advance and avoid future obstacles: Anyone (re)designing their home should consider ground level access, wide doors and straight stairs.

  • Install ergonomic furniture: To ensure that movements do not become a strain in later life, helpful solutions such as opening support systems on cabinet doors can be installed today as an added extra.

  • Ensure good visibility and accessibility: Storage space must be reachable, even in old age. This includes sufficient lighting as well as steps in the plinth, which make the top shelf of the cabinet safe to reach.

  • Provide sufficient storage and seating areas: Leaving space for (future) handles and handrails is important during the planning phase.

  • Opt for good-quality interior furnishings: Whoever buys cheap, buys twice. Durable furniture and first-class functional equipment prevent the need for continuous repairs and replacement purchases in old age.

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