A kitchen lasts for an average of 20 years, meaning whoever buys a kitchen today needs to be sure that it will meet all of their requirements as they age and mobility decreases.
One tool used in Blum's research and development of less mobile kitchen users is The Age Explorer Suit. This suit simulates decreasing mobility due to the natural ageing process or other physical limitations and enables Blum to develop and test products today to determine whether or not they will continue to offer ergonomic advantages to kitchen users in the long term.
The Age Explorer Suit was developed by the Meyer-Hentschel institute, a Swiss company specialising in the study of ageing populations. The suit is used exclusively by Blum in the kitchen industry, but is also used in many other industries including product design, public transport and the domestic automotive industry. The suit has many simulations such as special stitching to make it difficult to straighten the arms, weights strapped to the main muscle groups that over time simulate decreasing muscle strength, and bindings to limit the extension of the elbows and knees. The helmet and goggles create vision impairment and special gloves have a rough inner lining to simulate arthritis or loss of fine motor skills.
Blum's researchers and developers use this suit to test all of its products for qualities relating to ergonomics, motion and utilisation, and then optimise them accordingly. To keep the simulation as realistic as possible, the suit is worn for at least two hours.
From the research conducted by Blum, results have shown that in base units, for example, planning for pull-outs such as Blum’s full extension TANDEMBOX drawers instead of cupboards provides a clearer overview of what’s inside and allows for total access to the very back of the cabinets’ interior. This means easy access with no more bending, offering ergonomic advantages to kitchen users in the long term.
The Age Explorer Suit can be used in Blum’s showrooms in either Auckland or Christchurch, by appointment only.