Design for Ageing: Kevin Gouriou's Motobox

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. Kevin Gouriou was one of them.

We selected Kevin Gouriou after seeing his ÉCAL master's project, which dealt with mobility for the elderly.

You’ve taken this challenge rather personally . . .
I am emotionally implicated in all my projects – and in 2050 I will be 61. Plus, I’ve wanted to design a moped for a long time, so when I thought about me in 2050, I knew my concept would include wheels.

But mobility isn’t the main issue your concept addresses.
No, it’s feeling young. Products for seniors don’t have to look like they were made for seniors. For my master’s degree at ÉCAL, I designed Léonie, an electric scooter that doesn’t look like a wheelchair. It’s really fun to drive, and although it was made for my grandmother, a lot of people wanted to try it.

So tell us about the ‘young at heart’ moped.
As Motobox is electric, its form doesn’t need to be based on the moped we know. The design is as minimal as possible: a tube frame, a seat, a bar, a removable battery and two wheels. It’s small, and lightweight, so I can easily carry it upstairs to my apartment. In 2050, 70 per cent of the population will live in cities, and we’ll have to share smaller apartments. Motobox has no petrol tank, so it can be parked standing up to minimize space.

Why is it electric?
We are at the beginning of an electrical revolution: more and more power is being produced with natural energy sources. This revolution opens up crazy possibilities for us designers. If we can make a road out of solar panels, like Wattway in France, why not a conductive road, where the power comes from the ground and your car – or moped – runs by induction? Since your car wouldn’t need a battery, you’d have no distance limitation. Amazing.

Products for seniors don’t have to look like they were made for seniors

Back to Motobox: what advantages do you think increased mobility offers older people?
A lot. Moving – meeting friends for a drink or going to the market – is good for physical and mental health. Would you be happy if you had to stay home all the time?

Lightweight and compact, Gouriou’s Motobox takes into account the ever-increasing number of inner-city apartment dwellers. 

Won’t further developments in VR make mobility less important for the elderly, allowing them to travel and communicate without moving from the sofa? 
I think VR is really good for things we already do on the sofa, like gaming or watching films, but it should not be used to travel. It’s good to go outside and see real things, real bees, real flowers – to smell fresh air from the sea. And if you can’t walk, perhaps you should buy a moped?

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