Design Exercises for an Aging Population

New Normal(s) curated the pedagogy, research and teaching of Sarah Gunawan, Peter Reyner Banham Fellow 2017-18 at the Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Exhibited work was produced by students in the ARC 491/591 Multiplying Perspectives and ARC 404/585 New Normal(s) seminar classes.

The American population is aging. It is estimated that the number of people over 65 will double from 46 million in 2014 to 98 million people by 2060. For this growing population of elderly adults, the process of aging is altering their physical, sensorial and cognitive capacities. The physiological transformations common to aging—including musculoskeletal conditions (osteoporosis, arthritis), sensory changes (macular degeneration, loss of proprioception) and cognitive decline (dementia, Alzheimer’s)—are altering how people perceive and navigate their environments. In an effort to sustain active living, individuals are turning to an expanding market of assisted-living supports which include physical prosthetics, biological augmentation and technological systems. This process of corporeal transformation and fortification requires older adults to continuously reorient their body’s relationship with the built environment.

New Normal(s): Design Exercises for an Aging Population embraces the heterogeneous experiences of older adults as a field of architectural research and design exploration.

Positioning the aging body as the focal point of this investigation destabilizes the dominant conception of building users as youthful, able-bodied figures. Students in the ARC 491/591 Multiplying Perspectives and ARC 404/585 New Normals seminars used this lens to occupy embodiments different from their own, communicate alternate perceptions through experimental representations, and re-imagine architecture as an environmental prosthetic to aging bodies.

The exhibition organizes a collection of experimental exercises, public workshops and design explorations around four pedagogical questions which emerged through the process:

Thank you to the everyone who contributed to the production of the New Normal(s) exhibition. 

Research Assistant
Evan Glickman

With support from
Alex Bodkin
Ashwini Karve
Brendan Seney
Brittany Perez
Connor O’Grady
Frank Kraemer
Joan Bartholomew
Joanne Cole-Marshall
Julia Jamrozik
Kalyn Faller
Martin Vargas
Melissa Abel
Molly Ranahan
Randy Fernando
Rosalyn Romano
Special thanks to the following organizations for their contributions to the Drawing Community workshops

Age-Friendly Erie County
Amherst Center for Senior Services
Baptist Manor
IDeA Center
Silver Pride

Images courtesy of Biff Henrich