Design must accommodate our aging but never be obvious. No one must be singled out by physical incapacity. Design that embarrasses is terrible. Jan Degenshein, an architect for the renovation of the Hilton Hotel at Pearl River, New York, asserts, "Universal design must be just part of the architectural landscape." We age differently but travel together, so the design must seamlessly allow couples, girlfriend groups, and business companions to keep up with each other."
Design must provide a luxurious experience. We buy high-quality bedding from hoteliers to bring home. Conversely, we expect the type of high-quality amenities we have in our homes to be part of our hotel stay. Consider Toto's Washlet, a commode seat that washes, dries, and warms you, or its air tubs that provide relaxation without the trapped bacteria of jets. Mr. Steam's Day Spa Package features aromatherapy, chromotherapy, and music for the shower that creates the experience boomers seek.
Design for safety to accommodate the vision, hearing, and balance issues of normal aging. Natural light for easy vision, counter height variation, and hotel phones with large numbers are logical responses to the challenges of aging—yet, not obvious reminders of them. Mohawk Carpet will soon offer impact-attenuating carpet padding to lessen the potential for injury from falls and is welcome by boomers traveling with older parents.
Sustainable and inclusive design tells a great story that guests will share through social media. Ice Stone's recycled glass and concrete countertops are unique, classy, and green. Add heated floors, lighting at several levels, mirrors you can use sitting down, and cabinets that can be lowered, and you have a complete recipe for viral marketing.
Finally, watch for the trend in at-home healthcare to find its way into the hotel setting. Mr. Steam is outfitting showers with biofeedback components; Toto is attracting attention in Japan with smart commode seats that can analyze bodily functions. Cognifit, the brain fitness company, offers Personal Coach so guests can keep up their brain exercises from any hotel computer. MedApps allows guests to take their glucose levels from a portable Health Buddy and transmit the report to their doctor.
More often than not, all guests appreciate the features that emerge from universal design. Since Charles and Ray Eames designed the iconic Eames chair based on a molded leg splint for injured soldiers, disability has inspired creativity. Now, longevity has a chance to do the same.
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