Attention has always tended to focus on the increase in under-40s on the Forbes Rich List every year and the growing number of youthful internet tycoons. But it is an undeniable fact that there will always be a natural leaning towards maturity since it generally takes time for wealth to accumulate.
The general consensus from brokers is that owners and charterers are indeed getting older. “We have a lot of enquiries from elderly people,” says Peter Hürzeler, managing partner at Ocean Independence. “If you look at the trends of people chartering or buying yachts who have money, they are getting older.” For him, this means one thing: designers should start considering ease of use for elderly people.
Typically the subject of designing an accessible yacht is not one that really comes into play when discussing exciting yacht concepts and design. “The reason why this is usually not a subject of conversation is because people with a reduced mobility don't really want to advertise it,” Frans Heesen tells us. But for Heesen, when designing his yacht, the 47m Lady Petra, forward planning and thinking about mobility issues was absolutely key. “One day, I might not be able to walk as well or will need to use a wheel chair,” Heesen explains. “I obviously don’t need it right now but I like to forward plan and wanted these features to be seamlessly included into the design.” The result on Lady Petra is several tidy design solutions that make the yacht accessible and easy to navigate for those with mobility issues.
A lift platform that allows a wheelchair to access all three decks runs alongside the steps, following the curve of the superstructure. “As it turned out,” Dickie Bannenberg, one of the designers on the project, recalls, “the recess in the superstructure they made, lined with black brushing, actually looked rather sculptural, even up close so it reads as an interesting ‘applied’ black paint detail.” There is also a stair lift on the central staircase and a special passage cabin on the main deck for elderly guests to use in case of rough seas so they don’t have to access the master cabin on the bridge deck.
For designer and owner of M/Y Told U So, Kirk Lazarus, making a yacht mobility-friendly should actually be a natural part of the design process. “It is about understanding clients’ different stages of life,” he tells us. “You have to forward plan when designing a space. Just like you would consider including space for children, it makes sense to consider how an elderly person would use a yacht.” On Told U So this meant paying attention to doorway widths, wheelchair accessibility, step height and including a wider passerelle. “It makes no difference aesthetically,” he insists. “You can easily do it.”
While designing a yacht entirely to be accessible for those with mobility issues would not make sense, what is clear is that certain design decisions can be made to make it more access-friendly. Whether it means that a yacht can work for you through the different stages of your life, or that the yacht will appeal to the increasing number of older charterers, or that it becomes more attractive to the older buyers on the resale market, keeping reduced mobility in mind could mean a better superyacht.
For an in-depth look at designing for mobility issues, see Q15 of our sister publication, SuperyachtDesign.