Cologne: 20.–23.05.2025 #interzum

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Silver living: design in a time of demographic change

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Demographic change is having a variety of effects on our society. The requirements for living culture are also changing with an increasingly ageing population. However, what does that mean for the design of furniture and interiors? What functions, materials and surfaces are called on for this? And what characterises attractive interior design for the Silver Society of tomorrow?

Source: photo from Jeff Sheldon on unsplash

The requirements for living culture are changing with an increasingly ageing population. (Source: photo from Jeff Sheldon on unsplash)

The wish for a higher quality of life

The demographic change will become clearly palpable when the high-birth rate groups of baby-boomers soon retire at the latest. The generation of the 1950s and 1960s is one of the largest age groups, not only in Germany.

The increasingly ageing society will have consequences for living and interior design. The wish for a high quality of life in old age and changing requirements for comfort and health are changing the wishes for functionality and design. After all, the older generation is an affluent target group with a pronounced consciousness for quality, design and technology.

Relief through technology

In comparison with earlier generations, those in the prime of life today are decidedly technophile. The smart outfitting of interiors for older people will therefore become increasingly important – and this not only because of restricted mobility.

Digital solutions already promote functionality and ergonomics in the kitchen and other living areas: the height of tables, work surfaces or complete cooking islands can easily be adjusted with an app. The opening and closing of flaps or doors is made easier with electrical drive systems. For grey-haired digital nomads, there are also surfaces with a charging function or voice-controlled systems for furniture handling.

Continuing development in this area will be interesting in combination with advancing artificial intelligence.

Integrated charging solution

The integrated charging solution „Zens PuK Combi“ combines wireless charging with a standard power socket or double USB-C port. (Source: Zens)

More comfort in less space

In 2040, every fourth person will presumably live in a single household. Most people living alone will then be over 60 years old and probably be accustomed to smaller living areas.

For interior design, this means more comfort with less space. More compact living concepts require intelligent solutions like ergonomically shaped pull-out systems. Elements that can be turned or pulled out for compact cabinets increase storage space and improve accessibility.

Where living areas transition into one another, multifunctional or modular furniture will help with the space-saving organisation of living.

Furniture with a hygiene effect

The corona pandemic has shown how vulnerable the older population is. Themes like health and hygiene will therefore become even more important for interior design in future. Materials and surfaces that protect against viruses and bacteria can make a contribution here.

Decor-coated surfaces already make furniture with a hygiene effect possible. Thanks to additives, the surfaces are antibacterial or antimicrobial, thus preventing the spread of germs and bacteria. Synthetic, dirt-resistant coverings for upholstered furniture or furniture faces without handles that can be quickly and thoroughly cleaned also promote better hygiene.

Lacquer panels with wood structure

New lacquer panels "PerfectSense Span" in matt look with restrained wood structure and velvety-warm feel as well as anti-fingerprint properties. (Source: EGGER)

Retreat and relaxation

The theme of deceleration also plays an increasingly important role for the older generation.

The space between one's own four walls will increasingly become a calm anchor and retreat. One also wants to feel at ease where longer periods of time are spent. Previously functional rooms like the bathroom or the kitchen will therefore transform into cosy areas for relaxation.

Antibacterial and easy-to-clean decor panels in colourful designs or in wood shades help with the design. Their natural or textile surface feel emphasises the relaxed atmosphere. A sense of well-being is also fostered by pleasant lighting. Smart recessed luminaires contribute digitally to the appropriate mood.

Flexible wall system

The components of the flexible „Boiserie Moving Wall“ system can be placed at different heights and allow everybody to create his own vertical spaces in the kitchen. (Quelle: Lemi S.R.L.)

Adaptable living space

According to calculations of the UN, the share of those sixty years of age and older will increase to 21.5 percent by 2050. In Europe and North America, every fourth person could even be over 65 years of age by then.

Growing older and the related changes are therefore already being taken into account for innovative living concepts. Instead of static living spaces, planners and manufacturers are developing furnishings that cleverly and accessibly utilise the layout. With electrically moveable wall elements and extensible furniture, they adapt to various living situations and phases of life in the blink of an eye. Digital control increases operating comfort.

Such new living concepts for those in the prime of life combine practical aspects with wishes for liveability. Functionality and design are thereby no longer mutually exclusive. Especially in old age, quality of life can be considerably improved with new furnishing solutions.

The designer Irmy Wilms-Haverkamp will illuminate how the demographic change is changing living culture. You can find more information about her lecture "Silver Upgrade" and other expert articles in the programme of the Trend Stage .