January 23, 2018

AARP’s Life @ 50+


I would like to say that a conspiracy took place – at least there’s intention and action in a conspiracy.

At this year AARP Life@50+ annual convention in Washington DC, twenty-five thousand attendees left knowing as much about universal design as when they walked in (nearly none). I really doubt that this was AARP’s intention; perhaps, in all the excitement of pushing product and keeping the 50+ crowd entertained, it just was overlooked.

After walking miles of convention floor for endless hours, I was amazed by the complete absence of universal design as knowledge. There are a number of advocacy organizations, but none had a booth. Not the Center for Universal Design at NCSU, not Adaptive Environments from Boston, not TRACE from Wisconsin, not Universal Design Alliance, not IDEA at SUNY Buffalo, not Concrete Change, not the National Aging in Place Council, not the National Association of Home Builders and their CAPS (Certified Aging in Place) program nor the National Council on Independent Living, and, none of the manufactures or retailers who are committed to universal design such as Toyota, Lowes, Toto, Humanscale, or General Electric. Nothing. Not even a handout.

Here’s what could be at Vegas@50+ next year: Let’s start with a Universal Design Pavilion (pavilions is how AARP clusters exhibitors by theme). The intention is that all attendees leave knowing at least enough about universal design to acquire it when they want it. This would be supported by handouts, including one in the bag you get when you register, strong visual presence at the UD pavilion itself, interactive displays, additional resources and handouts, workshops, membership drives among the advocacy groups, surveys (data mining to further understand what it takes to create universal design communities), and opportunities for manufacturers to display their commitment to products that support the independent lifestyle that you love. In addition, it would be great to see a celebrity personality give universal design a bit of pizzazz, some wow-ness.

At the core of this endeavor would be Universal Design Resource, and its president, Konrad Kaletsch, providing the leadership necessary for the fulfillment of this expanded awareness. It is easy to imagine the 75,000 attendees, now knowledgable about universal design, telling friends over the following year. If they each have 14 conversations about universal design, one million lives improve as a result. Pretty neat.