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Elders help SFSU students design better toilet brushes, can openers, food containers



Matt Itelson
SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-1743
(415) 338-1665


Ariane Bicho
SFSU College of Creative Arts
(415) 338-1442
(415) 338-0520 FAX

Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


GREAT VISUALS: Design students to present ergonomic product prototypes for seniors Friday

SAN FRANCISCO, December 11, 2002 -- As baby boomers begin to swell the ranks of seniors, San Francisco State University design and industry students are developing new ways to make products more senior-friendly. With innovative concepts ranging from a power dish scrubber to an electronic medication dispenser, the students will present their designs in their final class of the semester this Friday.

The drawings, models and prototypes on display are the fruit of a collaboration between an upper-level product design class and a group of senior citizens in SFSU's Sixty Plus Club, a 500-member campus organization in which Bay Area residents age 60 and up can audit SFSU classes. The 24 student-designers spent two sessions with the seniors to understand the needs and habits of older people, with seniors giving direct feedback on students' ideas. Some students also worked individually with the seniors outside class.

Reporters are welcome to attend the presentations, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday in room 151 of the Fine Arts building on the SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway Ave. (at 19th Avenue) in San Francisco.

"The challenge for designers is to create products that incorporate a high level of functionality with sensitivity to quality, aesthetic appeal and convenience that boomers have grown to expect," class instructor Brian Donnelly says.

The class introduces students to universal design, an approach that tries to make products, graphics, environments and buildings usable for all people regardless of age or ability.

"I like to think of it as design for all," explains Donnelly, also a professional product designer.

Between now and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people in the United States age 65 or older will surge 50 percent. That compares to overall population growth of just 16 percent. The surge is due in large part to the aging of the baby-boom generation, as boomers start to reach age 65 in 2011.

"The 'Longevity Revolution' will transform every dimension of life-where and how we live, work, play, socialize, manage health, conduct business and government," Donnelly says.

Other concepts to be showcased include an ergonomic toilet brush with a built-in disinfectant dispenser, a clip-on faucet temperature gauge, an expandable personal digital assistant (PDA), a one-handed "pop-top" can opener, and a food container system to keep food fresh and warm.

For the students, the designs are not just class assignments, but real-life solutions. Many of the students would like to see their products reach the market and some plan to submit their work to a national design contest.

Over the years, SFSU design and industry students have created countless innovations, most notably Charles Hall, who in 1969 experimented with starch- and gelatin-filled prototypes that would later become the world's first waterbed. Other student inventions include: the Unball, a cross between a softball and beanbag that was popular in the 1980s; and the Hooper, a plastic harness used to carry two-liter soda bottles.

Design and Industry is a department of the College of Creative Arts, which has the only academic program primarily devoted to the creative arts in Northern California. Under the direction of Dean Keith Morrison, an internationally acclaimed faculty directs more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in seven disciplines: art, cinema, broadcast and electronic communications, music, dance, theatre and design and industry. The College of Creative Arts is part of San Francisco State University, one of the 23 member universities comprising the California State University, the largest system of higher education in the nation. SFSU is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university. For more information about the College of Creative Arts, please visit: For an application, please call Admissions at 415/338-1113.


Student writer Scott Heil assisted in writing this press release.

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Last modified April 23, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs