RIT’s School of Design collaborates with Rivers Run to improve everyday products

Industrial design students to present design concepts to enhance ‘aging in place’ today

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One of the concepts, designed by junior industrial design student Gino Santaguida, is a three-wheeled garden cart that carries soil, tools and seedlings to the Rivers Run community garden.

An intergenerational project between industrial design students in RIT’s School of Design and residents of Rivers Run Senior Living Community, a lifelong learning facility operated in conjunction with RIT, has resulted in a wide range of innovative prototype solutions that address everyday needs of residents and help enhance “aging in place.”

The students will present their design concepts during an interactive session with residents from 3 to 5 p.m. today at The Riparian at Rivers Run. During the session, set up like a science fair, students will showcase their design process with presentation boards featuring detailed models, prototypes and computer animations of their design solutions—ranging from the improvement of products in the kitchen to the bedroom to the garden.

The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” In December 2011, AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) Policy Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures released a report titled, “Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices” to foster aging in place by giving state legislators examples of how laws, policies and programs can support this goal.

In addition to governmental initiatives, the effort determined that livability could be optimized through the incorporation of universal design principles, telecare and other assistive technologies—including communications, health and wellness monitoring, home safety and security.

Professors Stan Rickel and Bruce Leonard developed a course proposal involving 28 third-year industrial design students who worked with an advisory team from Rivers Run over a 10-week period to research and develop new design concepts for everyday products that enable aging in place.

“These product concepts our students have come up with are the result of a unique and collaborative brainstorming with Rivers Run residents and staff,” says Leonard, an adjunct professor in the industrial design program. “Residents told us, ‘I wish I had a product that …’ and our students took their feedback and ran with it.”

Beginning with a survey of Rivers Run residents back in February, RIT students, faculty and the team at Rivers Run—including Executive Director Jeff Rowoth and Director of Community Life Chad Estabrooks—came up with hundreds of ideas for the industrial design students to consider. Concepts include a three-wheeled cart that carries soil, tools and seedlings to the Rivers Run community garden, along with a counter-top device that sorts and delivers medications at the right dosage levels when they are needed.

“The survey, subsequent workshop sessions and periodic reviews of the concepts between RIT and our advisory team of residents enabled students to get real-life ideas from consumers who have had difficulty using or just plain think there’s got to be a better way to design some of the things our residents use every day,” Rowoth says. “This is the first of what we hope will be many collaborative efforts between Rivers Run and the various colleges at RIT.”