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Designing for the ‘A’ Word- Stigma or Status?

by Louis on March 22, 2011

I was honored to be part of a great panel in New York last week. The program was part of the professional day at Architectural Digest‘s annual Home Design Show. The show is very nice, high end, and businesslike. Our presentation, Designing for the ‘A’ Word was organized and moderated by Florence Perchuk, an accomplished and respected designer. Did I mention she is a true dynamo? I am grateful to Florence for conceiving of this program and more grateful for her persistence in cajoling me to join. What a pleasure!

We had a standing room only crowd of designers, manufacturers and others who are apparently clued into the potential, importance and growth of the market.  This was the first program on this topic at this show. I guess ‘the times are a changing’. Two of my fellow panelists are dear friends I have known for more than ten years. Mary Jo Peterson has done more universal designing for builders and product manufacturers than anyone else. She is calm, pleasant and influential. Her reputation is wide and well deserved. Rosemary Bakker, an environmental gerontologist crosses the lines of gerontology and design, a model for the future. She recently published a great book, Revitalizing Your Home with AARP.

The fourth panelist was new to me. I am happy to know Eric Cohen, a sharp, funny and dedicated architect. Eric, pointing out that vitality should be as easily associated with older folks as the typical stereotype, reminded us that Mick Jagger was the oldest, but more importantly, the most exciting performer in this year’s grammys! Eric also raised the contrast between the stigma of visible hearing aids and the status of the blinking blue tooth cellphone headset. This is an accessible and valuable metaphor for so much of what we advocates are trying to do. We express it in many ways, trying to get to the heart of the matter, trying to understand how we can bring status to smart design. How can we make Universal Design aspirational? How to we get people to pull the trigger? How can we change attitudes about simple ideas that make sense? How do we get people to invest in their own long term interests? How do we make Universal Design homes status symbols?

Most of our discussion was a bit more grounded. We talked about the basic concepts employed in Designing for the ‘A’ Word. We talked about communicating, stealthily, with our clients. I am glad we were able to reach so many designers and manufacturers with the message. I would have been quite content to have this time with these great colleagues. A successful trip on all counts!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth De Haart March 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Louis–so pleased to hear that you were included in the AD conference. If AD in NYC is interested, this signals that new solutions to how we live, especially as our society ages, is getting the attention it deserves. Look forward to hearing more from about your learnings and experience. Great work!


Susan Slotkis June 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

On behalf of the IFDA NY Chapter I want to again thank you for being on our panel Designing for the A Word. Please see the article I’ve written along with pictures of the presentation. I hope that it does you justice. Enjoyed your take on the event as well. Let me know if this link below brings you to the article in Spring Issue IFDA Network.
Best regards,
Susan Slotkis, IFDA Director at Large,


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