I remember an exhibition I visited at the Design Museum in London a few years ago, looking at ways in which designers could meet the challenge of a rapidly ageing society.
It wasn’t something I’d ever truly considered before, but with The Office for National Statistics projecting that by 2026, 1 in 5 in the UK will be aged 65 or over, it’s vital that we consider how the design industry can help people lead fuller, healthier and more rewarding lives into old age. So when Eyra got in touch recently to introduce me to their newly launched Kickstarter collection of kitchen utensils, designed specifically for the older generation, I knew I wanted to learn more.
The seed for Eyra was planted after sisters Susan and Anne Costello were unable to find well-designed homeware for their mother, who was beginning to develop unsteady hands. They were shocked by the poor quality of the mobility products available, and the general low standard of merchandising for the sector as a whole. They quickly realised that there was a growing market of older people who required homeware products designed for their needs, whilst also being beautifully aesthetic, and set about investigating how they could create a better retail experience for this growing, but seemingly entirely overlooked, sector of the population.
After extensive research visiting numerous design fairs across the globe, Susan and Anne realised there were very few products across the board that married the needs of an aging population with considered design aesthetics, and came to the conclusion that they would need to develop their own. Three years in the making, Eyra are now crowdfunding their first product: a set of uniquely designed ergonomic kitchen utensils, designed by leading industrial designer Sebastian Conran.
Developed in close collaboration with Occupational Therapist Eve O’Sullivan, the stylish utensils have been ergonomically designed to be easy for anyone to use, but are especially beneficial to those with limited wrist mobility. The set is designed to compliment any stylish kitchen, with two bespoke handle colours to choose from (orange and aubergine), and includes a pasta grabber, a serving spoon, a spatula and a slotted spoon, with a magnetic display rack for easy access and storage.
Still sleek and stylish to look at, the handles are optimally shaped and weighted to allow for different hand grip positions, and made from a soft rubber specifically chosen to not slip out of the hand when wet. The arms have been carefully angled to reduces the degree users have to twist their wrist and arm whilst handling the utensil, while the heads are made from a glass-filled nylon material that is lightweight, strong, durable and heat resistant. “There’s nothing out there that’s shaped like the Eyra utensils,” says Eve, “they’ve been designed to be really beneficial to all users.” I’d also have them hanging happily in my kitchen, no question.
“When the world is saturated with beautiful homewares, why is so little attention given to the aesthetics of products designed to alleviate minor mobility problems?” muse Eyra, and I agree.
It seems baffling that it has taken this long for this issue of design for the older generation to be addressed, given the fact that the ‘aging phenomenon’ is occurring worldwide. Population pyramids across the globe have been reversing for years as birth rates steadily decrease, and life expectancy increases exponentially. We’re at a time in human evolution where the elderly population is growing at a faster rate than children, so why has it taken until now to address the needs of this generation beyond just mere functionality?
And it’s not just an aging population who require products such as these either, as there are many other differing physical requirements that require ergonomic solutions that are not merely functional, but also beautifully considered when it comes to their design too.
So I’m very pleased to hear that Eyra don’t plan to stop at kitchen utensils and have plans to add further products to the range over the next year, including a table, trolley, key turner and dressing aid. The design for all of these will consider the value of aesthetics as well as function, and again be developed in collaboration with an occupational therapist to ensure their ergonomic credentials.
Designers have an important part to play in affecting behaviour and attitudes towards reduced mobility, and it can be easy to underestimate how much joy – and validation – a beautifully designed product that meets specific needs can bring to a person’s life. If you’ve watched the last couple of seasons of Grace & Frankie (which I highly recommend binge-watching on Netflix right now if you haven’t!), you’ll have seen just how motivated and empowered Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s characters are to design products for their age group that allow them to continue enjoying a full and active life even in their later years, even if their focus isn’t specifically on the design. But I know that my desire for a beautiful home won’t diminish as I age, so why should it for my parents’, or grandparents’ generations?
Eyra’s kitchen utensils are now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. The newly launched Kickstarter launches today and runs through to 30 July 2020.
Pricing begins at £45 for early supporters, with the RRP later going up to £60.
All photography © Eyra, used with permission.