In this Interreg project, furniture manufacturers, designers, architectures and other experts gain knowledge about the senior’s needs and preferences in order to win a competitive edge in designing customised and smart products for seniors, and by this to improve their quality of life.
Insufficient market placement for seniors
Although almost 20% of the EU population is 65 years old or more, the market for furniture adapted to the seniors’ needs is still fragmented. At the same time, there are great design traditions in the Baltic Sea region: the furniture industry develops here five times faster than in other part of the EU. Germany and Poland are among the world’s leaders in producing and exporting furniture; together with Sweden, these countries also rank high in the industrial design.
Yet, owners of furniture companies have little understanding and knowledge how to design furniture that would increase the seniors’ comfort and security in home environment. By failing to meet the changing demands of aging societies, companies miss considerable business opportunities.
Innovating the approach
With applying a cross-sectoral approach and product development methods based on design thinking and open innovation, owners of companies, designers and architectures can boost their competitiveness in the Baltic Sea region and beyond. A big chance for enterprises can be a big win for seniors: better designed furniture incorporating smart solutions ensure a higher life quality and independence in home environment.
Needs and preferences of seniors do matter
Experts from Estonia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Sweden worked together in the project BaltSe@nioR, and paved the way for the furniture industry, in particular small and medium sized enterprises, to better adapt their market offer for the elderly.
Baltse@nioR has developed a profile of an elderly as a customer that can serve any enterprise manufacturing furniture or serving seniors otherwise in product customisation. 90 companies from 12 countries identified their challenges when producing products for seniors. In a knowledge database, the project collected feedback from more than 3,000 seniors from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden on their preferences in using kitchen, bedroom and upholstery furniture, as well as on their IT skills and economic conditions of households.
Virtual library for real-life benefits
The project created a one-stop shop for furniture manufacturers and others interested in seniors as customers. More than 230 registered users: designers, engineers, architects, health experts, furniture industry journalists and entrepreneurs from furniture manufacturing companies from 18 countries access new databases, research results from seven countries around the Baltic Sea, safety requirements for the furniture construction, design methods, new tools and prototypes developed by the project.
Let’s test together
Students and young professionals from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Norway tested new design, such as gigamapping or shadowing to get inspired to reshape the future furniture market. Now, these methods are part of the educational process of Poznan University of Life Sciences, Art Academy of Latvia and Tallinn University of Technology. Whereas the result of joint innovation camps and design workshops are several prototypes of furniture incorporating smart IT solutions that increase the seniors’ safety. For example, a magic mirror displays personalised messages, a ReAbleChair collects data on sit-to-stand movements, a smart chair helps in physical rehabilitation, and a mobile robot with the fall detection and stand-up support function.
The prototypes serve as an incentive for designers to design smarter and, by this, to gain a competitive advantage on the furniture market. The project directly supported as many as 40 companies, and involved many more into testing, workshops and business exchange events.
More than 100 seniors and their caregivers tested these novelties in real home environments in Ulvila and Pori (Finland), whereas enterprises from the furniture, IT and healthcare sectors validated the functionality of the tools, such as a virtual library and a 3d printed age-simulator. The collected feedback helped, for example, improve the mobile robot, and triggered further amendments to prototypes that could serve the needs of seniors in public space better, a niche picked by the follow up project BaltSe@nioR 2.0.
Interreg helps improve the quality of life
Thanks to EUR 1.72 million support from the European Union, the Interreg project Balts@nioR provided furniture manufacturers with knowledge and tools to customise their products for seniors. In this way, Balts@nioR increased the competitiveness of furniture sector across the Baltic Sea region and triggered producing safer and more comfortable furniture for seniors, which improve their quality of life and independence in home environment. Now, the follow-up project BaltSe@nioR 2.0 strives for changing public spaces into age-friendly areas, making use of all knowledge and tools in place.