Design for an Aging Population

Trygve Faste, University of Oregon



Older Americans are increasing in numbers and addressing their needs through better public transportation design will improve their quality of life. This study sought to increase understanding of the obstacles faced by people with impairments in vision, hearing and/or mobility, which are common issues for older people, and generate physical product solutions. The research was conducted to conceptualize products, structures and services to reduce or eliminate these obstacles. 

With a focus on the Eugene, OR, public bus system, elderly riders were surveyed and interviewed. Designers rode on buses noting what worked well and where problems arose. Five ride-along observations of older and disabled persons who had mobility, hearing and/or vision impairments were conducted. Two focus groups at Lane County Independent Living Alliance (LILA) with experts on public transportation and disabilities were conducted.

This research shows that aging riders face conceptual, physical and social barriers that impact their willingness to use buses. Using the bus was seen as inconvenient, time consuming, physically draining and potentially frustrating. Priority seating areas designated for older and disabled users fill quickly. People with mobility challenges may use bulky walkers and require the availability of grab bars, and users of wheeled mobility devices need different device security. Several situations noted in the study show that physically challenged riders are subject to awkward, uncomfortable social dynamics more than other bus users. Innovation in easy access seats and secure WhMD stations at the front of the bus are critical for older users, as it makes riding the bus less draining and more safe. 

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2016
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Education Round 2
UTC Funding:

Other Products

  • Faste, T and Muenchinger, K. “Design Research Toward Viable Bus Use for an Aging Population” Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal-Annual Review, 2018, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp.15-26. (PUBLICATION)
  • Design Research Towards Viable Bus Use for an Aging Population (PRESENTATION)