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. 


The overarching goal of this project is to generate and document immediately implementable research and product production directed towards the top needs of public transportation: safe, pleasant access and experiences for all members of a community. We are focusing on specific users with impairments, however the studio structure we set forth can easily be replicated and altered to focus on a different subset of users, such a specific demographic, location or environment. 

After the class is completed, selected design solutions may be chosen for professional testing and/or implementation with our local public transportation partners. In this event, the designs will undergo a focused and rigorous finalization process where more detailed implementation constraints, manufacturing constraints and cost constraints are considered for the product. Final design drawings will be generated as will a completed production ready prototype. 

Our documentation of this project, containing research, concept generation, testing analysis, and design refinement, will serve as a template and foundation for other projects on this topic both at the University of Oregon and other institutions, and the research will be directly beneficial to municipal transportation system organizations. Transportation product developers may also be able to use the products developed, but are more probable to implement the new solutions found if a municipal transportation authority requests it. The product results will be shared directly with LTD and or TriMet. They may also be entered in national and international transportation design competitions. They will be included in research articles developed about the primary user observations conducted for the project, and will be incorporated with the research found in TRID and other journal publications and resources. The International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) is the best conference to target for dissemination of this research. Other conferences such as the Education Symposium at the Industrial Design Society of America are also options for sharing the work and generating interest with faculty at other design schools. Additional journals and conferences may be targeted depending on the product results and in consultation with our PSU and UO colleagues with extensive transportation expertise.

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)