I Want More Public Seating Suitable for Older Adults

Listen to the Audio: I Want More Public Seating Suitable for Older Adults

Hear this discussion from our Longevity Explorers — circles of older adults who meet monthly to explore solutions to the challenges that come with aging.

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from: Longevity Explorers | Sequoias SF, SF Village

Discussion Summary

SF Explorer Shirley decries the paucity of public seating designed to accommodate the special needs of older adults. 

In particular, she cites venues such as museums, theaters, and transit shelters with no seating or seating not friendly to older people. Often when it does exist, the design is low with no arm rests, making it hard to get up again. 

Members discuss the idea, some noting that benches have begun appearing on some streets in shopping districts (sponsored by local merchants' associations), but that they then run the risk of becoming attractive nusiances as lounges for vagrants.

Others hold the view that younger designers are guided by beauty (vs. functionality) which leads to an emphasis on aesthetics over ergonomics. Some advocate forms of activism to get results, with examples. 

Summary question: Is poor design of public seating for elders intentional, or simply in error?

One view: Unfriendly design is not intentional, but instead is a consequence of existing design standards and making it simple for the manufacturers. The typical seat/bench height is 17", but for many older adults 19-20" is better for the reasons the group observed. Perhaps there should be variety, i.e. providing two benches at different height in any location. We are all different - so averages and standards require compromise.


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Key words: 
seating design, mobility aids, public policy