Special Projects create an experience that encourages connection between generations

The NEW OLD exhibition at the Design Museum focusses on how design thinking can help people live fuller, healthier and more rewarding lives as they age.

The participatory installation NEW OLD Exchange by Special Projects enables people to learn about ageing by spending time with older people.  

In January 2017 the Design Museum launched an exhibition called NEW OLD. It focusses on how design thinking can help people live fuller, healthier and more rewarding lives as they move into old age. In Europe, half of the population will be over 50 by 2020.

Special Projects, a design and innovation consultancy based in London, has worked extensively with companies to design products and experiences for older adults. They make complex technologies approachable and less stigmatising. While they often work with the latest technologies, a human, empathetic element is essential when creating a compelling experience. So no matter what the design, the studio always strives to find ways of connecting with people at a deep level. 

For the NEW OLD Exchange, rather than designing an object, making a film, or just telling visitors about older people, Special Projects designed an experience that enables people to learn about ageing by having the opportunity to spend time with older people.

"We felt that this would enable visitors to almost experience our design process for themselves and understand the way we carry out our research when we invent new products," says Special Projects. "The simplicity of this real life interaction brings the visitor back to the heart of the matter: our attitude towards age. It serves as a reminder that when it comes to finding design solutions to problems, sometimes asking questions is equally as important as answering them."

A special area has been created in the Design Museum, manned by a team of over seventy-year-olds. Members of the public are invited to sit at the table and ask any one question that comes to mind, and then they will be asked a question in return.

“Is it true that people don’t grow up?”

“When did you last make a sandcastle”

“What made you the happiest in life”

The whole area is surrounded by plants to create an intimate environment and all of the questions are recorded directly onto a custom designed paper grid which is embedded into the surface of the table. This will create a record of the questions asked between the generations.