We all get older, it’s inevitable. But something we don’t expect is that the older we get the poorer the quality and range of products and services available to us are.
Let’s take home adaptations – products that, research shows, can make the biggest difference for prolonging independence and reducing the need for residential care. A fantastic solution to support people’s health and mobility in and around their home, but the reality is that not enough people are getting them installed.
This is something we couldn’t wrap our heads around when we started our journey with Invisible Creations last year.
Adaptations that have the potential to be life changing were being delayed, rejected or completely ignored.
So, why does this happen?
We conducted in-depth research on adaptations and asked a range of older people for their views. It turns out the answer is actually quite simple. Poor design. A complete lack of awareness and understanding for what people want, how they interact with products in their home and how they make people feel.
Every design decision we make has the potential to include or exclude customers. The current model of home adaptations is built around function and need, rather than centred on what people actually want and desire.
This presents people with a range of products that, although functional, are clinical, unattractive and stigmatising – a symbol of lost independence, disability, old age and vulnerability. Products that exclude customers and have so much negative stigma attached to them that people would rather make dangerous decisions that damage their health than get them installed.
Many people delay installing adaptations until they reach crisis point, so as not to ‘medicalise’ their home, and they instead choose to adapt their behaviour rather than adapting their home.
Many people delay home adaptations because of their clinical appearance and negative associations with vulnerability and loss of independence. The design of current equipment offered is practical rather than attractive and feedback says that adaptations ‘echo hospitals’ or that they ‘spoil the décor’.
Evidence finds that delays in installing adaptations can reduce their effectiveness. Therefore, it is critical action is taken to move to a preventative model that provides more aesthetically pleasing, aspirational adaptations that people are proud to have in their homes, and consequently installed sooner.
Older customers have been poorly served to date with products and services often disempowering, clinical and stigmatising. This had led to limited demand for products and services that do exist.
The solution is simple – good design.
Design touches people’s lives every day. We need to raise awareness for the value of good, inclusive design.Design touches people’s lives every day. We need to raise awareness for the value of good, inclusive design. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our wellbeing.
Good design should reflect the diversity of people who use it and not impose barriers of any kind. The current adaptations market lacks choice, fosters negative attitudes towards ageing and disability, and fails to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of the people in our communities.
By taking a more inclusive approach to the design and management of the built environment, the frustration and hardship experienced by many – including disabled people, older people and families with young children – can be overcome.
We all benefit from an environment designed in line with inclusive principles.
Good design for adaptations has the power to disrupt the current restrictive and reactive delivery model. This is why we started Invisible Creations – to produce attractive, people-centred and inclusively designed products that have the potential to put prevention at the forefront of future processes.
Invisible Creations was founded in the National Housing Federation’s innovation programme in 2018, with participation by the Housing LIN, and has been supported by the social housing sector to develop into a business which provides attractive, dual-purpose adaptations.
The vision for Invisible Creations sets social value and social purpose at the heart of what we are trying to achieve. We recognise the significant social, economic and financial impact providing inclusive and attractive home adaptations can make on both individuals and communities.
Invisible Creations provides an opportunity for the market to change, to provide customers with the products that they want, that they are happy to install into homes earlier, and that ultimately will support them to remain independent in their own homes for longer.
People have been at the centre of our product design and business creation, to ensure that we create adaptations that support mobility and dignity.
Invisible Creations presents the opportunity to not only improve the design of adaptations, but to improve the service delivery by installing adaptations into homes sooner.
We are currently working with housing associations across the UK to implement a more strategic approach to the way minor adaptations are delivered.
The housing sector has a huge opportunity to embrace and develop innovative and individual solutions that create designs for real people in all their variability.