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Research Informing Teaching: Lab4Living
Understanding older users and responding with appropriate design solutions in response to the ageing population has been a key topic for investigation amongst design staff and students at Sheffield Hallam University for many years. Professor Paul Chamberlain, Head of the Art & Design Research Centre, says, 'it is often difficult for younger designers to fully understand the needs and demands of people as they age. To help begin to develop and understanding to support better design it is important to engage with older people early in the design process'. For nearly ten years Paul has worked closely with Sheffield's University of the third age (U3A) involving older people in student design projects.' Lab4Living (www.lab4living.org.uk), a multi disciplinary research initiative between design and health, was set up to extend this network of older people and provides opportunity for students to support their design studies through user workshops and research events. Lab4Living also provides a forum for students to work alongside staff (design and health) who are leading internationally within this field, and provides an opportunity to work alongside industry. Paul says, 'there is a real opportunity for design to make a difference and improve products and experiences for older people. Manufactures will need to adjust accordingly and future designers will need to be better informed about older consumers'. The Lab4living team are currently working on an international research project funded by the British Council that explores the cultural and environmental issues related to design and ageing. They have delivered a series of international exhibitions and workshops with students and older people that have been staged in Taiwan, London and are schedule at the SIA gallery, Sheffield 4-27 November 2011. Sheffield Hallam provide an integrated four year MDes programme that includes a one semester placement and a three semester MA Design programme that has more research focus and an international flavour.

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