DSC01220We’ve just set up the installation ‘An Ageing World’ in the main lobby of the Faculty of Health Sciences here in Copenhagen.

The installation has been made to mark the IARU-conference on Ageing, Longevity and Health that takes place 5-7 October, organised by the Center for Healthy Ageing.

The simple idea was to make a commentary on the rapidly changing demographic of the human population:

Protruding from a round earth disc, soaring a couple of feet above the floor, are age structure diagrams (histograms) from seven countries around the world (Denmark, China, Japan, United States, Bolivia, Malawi and Papua New Guinea) for the years of 1950, 2000 and 2050. The histogram protrusions are illuminated from below by means of fiber optics in contrast to the dark-blue earth disc.

Age structure diagrams, especially in poor countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, traditionally take the form of pyramids (lots of kids and decreasing number of adults as the population grows older). But in the rich countries of the world the pyramids are already now turning into pillars, and in 2050 they will become mushroom shaped. In short, this is a major demographic challenge, which has enormous consequences for global health systems.

Bente and I got the idea to the installation from the way she, Camilla Mordhorst and architech Anne Schnettler used physical age structure diagrams in the Oldetopia exhibition here at Medical Museion a couple of years ago — this idea in turn had grown out of discussions we had with Susanne Bauer and Sybilla Nikolow over how statistics was displayed in the old Deutsche Hygiene Museum in the 1930s.

We then discussed different design solutions with exhibition designer Mikael Thorsted and graphic designer Lars Møller Nielsen (Studio 8), and eventually agreed on the light disc with a pixel-ish world map — with East Asia in the center, and with Europe and the US on the rim — and with the protrusing illuminated histograms. The disc was produced by Exponent Stougaard A/S, using a new printing method

Here are images from the installation of the disc in the main lobby of the Panum building last Thursday:

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After four hours all 21 ‘pyramids’ were glowing and ‘An Ageing World’ was completed.

Throughout the day, students and staff stopped by, gathering in small groups and discussing the diagrams.

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What started as an icon for the IARU conference, thus turned out — quite unexpectedly — to be a informal engagement site for understanding global demography.

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