Have you ever seen a walking cane with so much style and function? Probably not. Until now, this essential object for millions of people has only done one thing – help us get from point A to B.

Italian and Singaporean design duo, Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai ,lanzavecchia-wai.com , noticed this opportunity in response to the needs arising in their own family.

Francesca’s grandmother, for example, was very sad when she lost some mobility and could no longer bring coffee to her husband.

So Lanzvecchia and Wai came up with three cane styles for various needs; one has a beverage tray , the other a container for magazines or knitting, and one comes with an I pad stand. They call this helpful trio, “Together.” But they didn’t stop there.

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No country for old men collection, 2012, Lanzavecchia + Wai
photography(c)David Farabegoli

The full line is called “No country for Old Men” and features a chair that’s easy to get out of, as well as a table lamp that magnifies for reading without strain.

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No Country for Old Men, 2012, Lanzvecchia and Wai
photography(c)David Farabegoli

Social design is a broad concept, and often the issues that grab our attention are so far away from our immediate environment. The work of Lanzvecchia and Wai remind us that meaningful opportunities for new design solutions can be right in front of us: it may be the people we’re closest to who most need our efforts to make things better.

There are so many aspects of life calling for continued design attention. Age-friendly design is one area that directly touches us all.

We all age and experience new challenges in that process. We all have older people in our lives that we’d like to see more comfortable, happy, or self-sufficient. We’re all a part of a larger society that includes more people over 65 than ever before.

So how can this “super-aging” society better serve its own needs?

The Japanese team, issue + design issueplusdesign.jp, wants to know YOUR answer.

issue + design is a project-oriented committee that formed in 2008, on the 15th anniversary of Kobe’s great earthquake, which killed thousands of people.

Their concerns were natural disasters, sustainability, food safety, social welfare, etc. – the countless societal issues affecting the safety and security of the people.

Since then, they’ve built an on- and off-line community where people can apply their creativity to work in this vein. issue + design’s mission is to resolve these concerns, not only in Kobe* but elsewhere in the world as well, to realize a better society for everyone.

For 2012, the focus is- you guessed it – how to help the “Super-aging Society.” This issue isn’t limited to Japan, but affects many advanced countries and big cities.

issue + design’s approach is very unique: they’re holding a competition for the best solutions to problems stemming from lifestyle-related disease, lack of community and isolation, and the mental health challenges that older people in particular face.

May you find inspiration as you read, and a raised awareness around your community that leads to discoveries that change the future.

Please visit issueplusdesign.jp and enter your design for our future.

*UNESCO has designated Kobe the design city of its "Creative City Network" since 2008.

Posted July 27, 2012