As the population ages, designers are working to make homes, tools and other products safer for the elderly to use. Older people themselves can be resourceful in finding ways to adapt their surroundings to their diminished vision, muscles and dexterity.

Glen Hougan, an industrial designer and professor at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, spent time last year at a residential senior facility in Rochester, Minn., observing how residents came up with their own practical solutions to make their lives easier. As part of the Mayo Clinic’s inaugural research fellowship in health-care innovation, Prof. Hougan also spent time online looking into how seniors “hack” household devices.

In all, he found roughly 350 examples of household adaptations by the elderly for the elderly. Click on the graphic at left for an enlarged view of some of his top picks.



These illustrations show a collection of strategies that are used by people who struggle with hand use. I find it extremely interesting that so many everyday objects must be adapted in order for disabled people to use them safely. As designers, we should see this and immediately feel called to design products that do not need to be modified for each user. This shows the shortcomings in so many of today’s products. The question becomes, shouldn’t we be designing accessible products instead of designing products to make other products accessible?