While younger people can easily get in and out of bed or sit on a couch, older people can have a much harder time of it, with conditions such as arthritis or rheumatism considerably limiting their movements. Czech and German partners, involved in the EUREKA E! 3210 SPECIFURN project, have developed a new line of furniture aimed at making life and leisure easier for the elderly and infirm. Their designs are suitable for use in old people's homes, public urban spaces, swimming pools and railway stations.
“There is a lot to consider when designing furniture for senior citizens,” says SPECIFURN coordinator Josef Bartak of Form, in the Czech Republic. “We need to closely consider elderly people’s special needs, particularly their reduced mobility, but also other differences compared to younger members of the population.” The new designs were based on in-depth research and considerable accumulated experience among the partners.
Form, along with partners Addesign Furniture, also from the Czech Republic, and Germany’s Fidura Capital Consult, aimed to design a complete set of furniture, including wardrobe and other storage furniture, chairs and couches of varying comfort levels, bedroom furniture, a table and kitchen furniture. Chairs fell into three categories, including standard chairs and semi-armchairs, chairs with changeable positions, and armchairs with extensive features. Special features include better availability and visibility of stored items, rubberised or elastic handholds on lower furniture and wardrobes, insuring maximum safety when moving as well as passive protection against possible falls. New designs include removable upholstery for easy cleaning, suitable shaping of arm handles, and innovative mechanisms for changing furniture configuration.
An expanding market
By all accounts, populations in developed Central and Western European countries are growing older, says Bartak, due to decreasing birth rates and increasing life spans. This, he explains, can only increase the demand for specialised products and services for the elderly. Moreover, governments in all European countries are now continuously increasing spending on facilities for the aged. “We see our new designs giving rise to an even wider range of original and attractive wood-based furniture,” says Bartak, “furniture that is fully compliant with both ergonomic and ecological requirements and resistant to heavy use.”
“A firm of our size could not have afforded such an extensive programme of research and development without the help of EUREKA,” says Bartak. “We have achieved some remarkable results thanks to the important support we received.” Bartak says the new SPECIFURN designs have already been well received, making a big impact at MOBITEX 2007, a major trade fair that took place this year in Brno, in the Czech Republic. “The new furniture is unique in terms of its coherent approach to a complex series of problems associated with the aged.”