Design for Ageing: Jan Pieter Kaptein’s Canta

In conjunction with each issue of Frame, we challenge emerging designers to answer a topical question with a future-forward design concept.

Triggered by a UN report predicting that by 2050 the world’s population over 65 years of age will outnumber those under 15, for Frame 115 we asked five makers to come up with an item, tool or service that responds to our planet’s growing number of senior citizens. Jan Pieter Kaptein was one of them.

Canta is a revision of an existing Dutch microcar. By adding new functions to the vehicle, you’re attempting to close the gap between the elderly and the job market?
JAN PIETER KAPTEIN: Yes. According to recent estimates, Dutch people who are now 25 will have to work until they’re 72. In addition, the rise of freelance work and zero-hour contracts means that young people can’t be certain of receiving a pension when they retire. Therefore, they’ll probably have to work past the age of 72, even though a lot of jobs – especially physical work – will be unavailable or unsuitable for them.

What’s your solution?
The Canta is a microcar for disabled and elderly people [realized in 1995 by Waaijenberg and TU Delft]. It’s very popular in the Netherlands, because it doesn’t require a driving licence and can be used almost anywhere – road, cycle path, pavement – so it offers independence and freedom of movement. I propose making a series of modifications to the Canta that can close the gap between the elderly and the job market.

Why did you choose to modify an existing form of transport instead of designing a new one? 
I believe design is always in a state of evolution, so it’s logical to start with something already out there. There’s something very beautiful about looking at a design and seeing traces of its previous stages, from the original idea to later modifications.

What modifications do you have in mind?
Extra parts that give the Canta a new function, allowing the elderly to add to their incomes. Examples of such functions are courier service, one-person taxi, food truck, community announcer, street sweeper – and many more.

What equipment will the elderly need to use these services?
I don’t see the elderly ‘using’ these services as much as offering them to other people. A taxi driver, for instance, contributes to the community while taking care of himself financially. But to answer your question, depending on the job and the circumstances, various ready-to-go toolkits will make it easier to get started. Most services require just one or two pieces of equipment that fit easily into a small car. For a coffee truck, all you really need is a coffee machine and some cups.

What other advantages does your Canta offer?
The great thing about the Canta is that it’s very small and slow. If we don’t begin to appreciate these qualities a bit more, I think we’ll have to pay a very high price in the future. Now that we know how our consumption behaviour affects the environment, we have to act accordingly. The tide can be turned only if we embrace a culture in which ‘more’, ‘bigger’ and ‘faster’ are no longer synonyms for ‘better’.

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