To best design for age, we must first define our age
As the Knowledge Exchange Fellow on the DAI team, I’ve curated a set of questions to explore if and how age defines us and the decisions we make. Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
What is your Chronological Age?
When we ask ‘how “old” are you?’ we mean: what is your chronological age? Your chronological age is the amount of time that has passed since you were born in terms of years, months, days, etc. When asked to define our age, this is how we most often respond.
What is your Biological Age?
What would you guess is your biological age? Biological age is also known as physiological or functional age. This definition of age accounts for various lifestyle factors that can shorten or extend lifespan, including diet, exercise, and environmental exposures (Uncovering a “smoking gun” of biological aging, Harvard School of Public Health, 2019). Medical professionals can formally assess our biological age but in lieu of that, take your best guess.
What is the Age you Feel?
What age do you feel inside, in your head (and your heart)? This may also be referred to as your subjective age, your mental age, or your psychological age. This may change on any given day, or a few different ages may resonate, but on average what age do you feel resonates with you the most?
TAKE THE SURVEY
Survey: What's my age again?
Did you answer the same age for each question?
Out of the over 100 people I’ve asked this question to so far, only one person has said the same answer for all three questions. This tells us that our chronological age does not define us.
Which of these ages determines the decisions you make?
If you reflect on how these ways of defining age may impact how you make decisions, do you think your chronological, biological or the age you feel most impacts the decisions you make? Your answer may change depending on what the decision is, whether it’s where you live, what you eat, where you work, what activities you take part in, and how you spend your time.
Do you think industry accounts for this?
Our partners at the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC) found that “Market research into older consumers is weak. Segmentation by age is poor, normally grouping together all consumers aged over 65. This severely restricts marketing possibilities” (ILC, Lockdown not shutdown, 2020). If industry only considers our chronological age when designing, developing, and marketing the products, services, and built environments available for us to use and live in, we are at risk of being stereotyped by ageist assumptions rather than understood as diverse individuals. It is critical that those of us responsible for design consider: “What are the design assumptions at work here? Do we care whom we are including — and whom we are excluding — by our design choices?” (Shefaly Yogendra, The age of un-empathy, 2015).
We hope reflecting on these questions will help us all think critically about how we, as individuals, relate to our ageing selves and how we, as a society, define and design age.