Future Ways of Living & Aging in Place

Date: August 17, 2020 Category: ,
Date: 2020–2021
Category: Educational-course, academic
Form: Major project, publication, exhibition, charrette

Future Ways of Living & Aging in Place


In 2020 – 21, the Institute without Boundaries in partnership with the Centre for Health Sciences (CSHS) at George Brown College will explore how we might be able to respond to these challenges by charting a research agenda and potential projects for an Institute for Living and Aging at home for the College. This project will draw from the interdisciplinary capabilities at the IwB to focus on imagining new products, services, systems, and infrastructure required to help the disabled and elderly to stay in their homes for as long as possible using intelligent, sustainable, inclusive, affordable and ethical solutions. In the process, the IwB will develop a prototype housing unit that will demonstrate what can be done to help people continue healthy and productive lives at home.

Future Ways of Living:

As we transition to the 21st century, global forces such as geopolitical fragility, mass migration, income inequality, rapid urbanization, economic restructuring, precarious employment, climate change, and exponential technological innovation are challenging our existing societal constructs and transforming the ways we live. This can have both positive and negative impacts on our human experiences, and as designers we often react to these forces rather than anticipate them to achieve our collective aspirations.

Future Ways of Living is both a research method and a call to action developed to foster anticipatory design. As a research method, it aims to investigate and visualize the past and present forces shaping society, which inform an understanding of potential futures. As a call to action, it challenges us to imagine and create what ought to be, rather than what exists. This approach encourages the development of tangible design outcomes that can contribute to more responsible, humane, sustainable, democratic, and resilient futures.

Project Goals:

Over the course of this year, students will be challenged to:

  • Identify and expand the definition of living and aging at home.
  • Identify the physical and digital requirements in designing products, services, systems, and environments to increase the quality of life for older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Identify personas and scenarios demonstrating the needs, values, pain points and areas to help the main user groups.
  • Gather, analyze and synthesize national and international case studies demonstrating living and aging at home products, systems, services, and environments.
  • Design and develop a series of products, systems, services, and environments to help people live and age at home. 
  • Identify possible research thematics and programming for the Institute of Living and Aging at home.


How might we imagine future ways of living and aging at home to make people’s lives healthier and more productive while reducing the burden on our healthcare system?

Project Context & Year Ahead

Throughout the 2020-21 academic year, living and aging in place will be explored in the context of Future Ways of Living – encouraging a holistic, forward-thinking approach to inform design outcomes.

Living and Aging in Place Overview

The IwB in partnership with the Centre for Health Sciences (CSHS) at George Brown College will explore and evaluate the challenges of staying in place by charting a research agenda and potential projects for an Institute for Living and Aging at home for the College. 

According to a 2017 report by the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the ageing population around the world is increasing in numbers and make up a growing share of the population in every country (World Population Ageing). The number of older persons is expected to double by 2050, reaching nearly 2.1 billion, indicating that there will be more older persons aged 60+ than adolescents and youth at ages 10 – 24 by this time. This has implications for nearly all sectors of society such as labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and inter-generational ties (World Population Ageing, UN, 2017).  

In Canada, as the baby boomer generation ages into their senior years and with the surge of immigration, there will be further strains to the already overburdened health and social services of Ontario as well as across the country. According to the government of Ontario, By 2041, it is projected that 25% of Ontario’s population will be 65 years or older, almost doubling from 2.3 million seniors in 2016 to 4.6 million seniors (Constructing an Institute for Living and Aging at Home, 2020). Additionally, in 2019, the initial predicted influx of seniors hitting the benchmark age of 83 began to increase, which is a significant milestone as this is the average age at which people start to enter long-term care homes (Royal Bank of Canada, 2019). However, residing in long-term care homes can pose risks to the health and well-being of seniors as evident by the impacts of COVID-19. As of May 2020, 81% of deaths due to COVID-19 were in Canada’s long-term care homes bringing to surface several factors impacting quality of life of senior in these centres such as a frail and eldelerly resident population, old buildings with little space for separating the sick from the healthy, cramped living quarters, and frequent contact between residents and caregivers (Washington Post, Coletta, 2020). 

While 77% of older Ontarians reported being in good health, aging at home and only consuming six percent of our annual spending on health care, there is a small minority of older adults which consume the bulk of our health care budgets and are struggling with diagnosed comorbidities and many complex, interrelated conditions contributing to their illnesses. In addition to the aging population, it is important to consider the needs of those who are living with disabilities to facilitate healthy and safe living at home. People living with disabilities require greater access to products and services, and often have difficulty accessing healthcare and other social supports (Constructing an Institute for Living and Aging, 2020). The number of Canadians who reported having a disability increased by roughly three-quarters of a million people between 2001 and 2006 (White Paper, Living and Aging at Home, 2020). This demonstrates that there is a growing population of both seniors and the disabled who need adequate, affordable, sustainable, and accessible services and support to meet their needs. However, it is important to note that the needs of the older population will greatly differ from the needs of the disabled. While people may acquire limitations and disabilities as they age, meaning they age into disability, there is a growing population that age with a disability such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, partial sight and hard of hearing, and multiple sclerosis. These people will face unique healthcare needs and require greater design considerations to enable them to Live and Age in Place (Aging with a Disability, Demand a Plan, 2018). 

Living and Aging in Place is traditionally defined as the “ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortable, regardless of age, income, or ability level, enabling older adults and seniors to live and participate in the communities they’ve made their homes in” (Age Friendly cities and Aging in Place, Rick Hansen Foundation, 2018).

Bootcamp Week –– August 2020

Bootcamp introduces students to the IwB, expectations, values, philosophies and approaches. Students will take part in exercises to get to know each other and become better familiarized with the research theme of the year. During this week, students will be introduced to the tools and resources available at the IwB, School of Design, George Brown College. They will receive lectures from faculty to understand how they can approach researching, reframing and designing for Living and Aging in Place and will collaborate on a project that tests their skills on design principles and practices.

IwB Fall Charrette –– October 2020

Students explore design issues and develop solutions in a team environment through the design charrette process—an intensive, collaborative process that brings together students from different disciplines to interact with design professionals and citizen stakeholders to develop innovative solutions for complex issues. Over a few short days of brainstorming, discussion and expert consultation, teams create a broad range of ideas around the central theme, and eventually focus on elaborating a single concept. Students take part in the design and planning of the charrette process, and act as team facilitators during it, collaboratively generating, refining and presenting ideas.


The work completed during the charrette will be key to the students understanding of the larger research questions undertaken in the Major Project.

IwB International Charrette -– February 2021

The IwB is hosting the 17th annual International Charrette from February 26–March 1, 2021. Each year, the IwB challenges students from around the world to fundamentally rethink what it means to be a designer. During the charrette, participants will explore the future of ethical smart cities and develop solutions in an intensive, collaborative process that brings together students from different disciplines, and design professionals from around the world. This year, the students are challenged with understanding, visualizing and proposing innovative and sustainable design solutions to address living and aging in place. To tackle this issue, participants will be exposed to new tools, methods, and approaches that will challenge them to become better designers and collaborators.

School of Design Year End Show (YES!) – April 2021

During this exhibition, students will have the opportunity to showcase their year-long design process, research insights, and design solutions. IwB students will use this exhibition as an engagement pop-up to gain meaningful feedback from industry partners, GBC students, and the public in order to push their project forward and prepare for their final exhibition.

Production Charrette –– April 2021

From May 3–14, 2021, IwB students will take part in a two-week charrette in collaboration with disciplines within the George Brown College ecosystem to test and prototype their design solutions. During the charrette, the IwB team will lead and work with students from Graphic Design, Interactive Media Management, and Interaction Design and Development Program among others to fine tune and finalize their design outcomes. The focus and themes of the Prototyping Charrette will be developed from the students’ year-long research insights and will directly lead to the development of the final exhibition.

Final Exhibition & Presentation –– May/June 2021

The IwB students will showcase their year-long research insights on living and aging in place and its impact on human experiences. Demonstrating their design outcomes, the IwB students will highlight the work developed throughout the year including various scenarios, projects developed throughout the International and Prototyping Charrettes.

Project Credits:
IwB staff and faculty 2020-21


Image Credits:
Michael R. Madjus

Project Tags:
Future Ways of Living, Living and Aging in Place, Toronto, Greater Toronto Area, GTA, connection,