The world took an emotionally negative turn in 2017 according to Gallup’s annual Global Emotions Report. Collectively we are more stressed, worried and sad than ever before, which many likely relate to busier lives and less time to switch off. Be that as it may, the global wellness industry, a US$4.2 trillion dollar market has become a respite for people who want to counteract the challenges of restless modern times. What constitutes a good life? The search for a definition is ongoing.
Wellness and technology are undoubtedly intertwined. State-of-the-art equipment and treatments are accessible to the privileged, but for the majority it is still just budding potential. Technology changes at a rapid rate with a reach as broad as it is versatile. Dr James Canton, futurist, CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, describes how he sees the well-being industry evolving. He says, “Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and synthetic biology will be the big game changers in the spa and wellness industry. The spa experience will change with the use of DNA data and embody more of a medical practice. There are states of human well-being that we cannot access with traditional healthcare.”
Dr Canton explains, “I think there will be several stages: early diagnosis and detection of pre-disease conditions leading to new methods of prevention and health management. Genomics will help specialists design specific types of nutrition, exercise and health plans, using radical tools like CRISPR (a gene-editing platform similar to stem-cell therapy) that will help us reprogramme our bodies against disease. Mindfulness technology will be used to promote a deeper sense of personal meaning and discovery using multisensory technology to transport us, for example, into a deeper meditative state.”
The ripple effects of the wellness industry seem to be unlimited. A possible consequence of a longer-living population could encourage environmental awareness, changing how we live as a community and making giving back vitally important. Dr Canton says, “Longer lifespans will encourage ecological stewardship to protect the future of the earth.” It may affect how we design our cities, hospitals and workspaces. Architecture, technology and sustainability could together provide a completely new experience. Visualise a space where architects create bold visions of the future and developers design technology to unravel underlying health issues, remapping well-being.
Spa will become a place of rejuvenation for body, mind and spirit. Architects Ville Hara and Anu Puustinen designed Loyly, a unique eco-friendly urban sauna, based in Finland. They explain that materials have a huge impact on the atmosphere of a spa. “We use specific eco-friendly materials so that as you spend time unwinding, you feel at peace in your surroundings which benefits you on a deeper level. The wood for the sauna is made from birch over from the plywood industry which is typically burned off for energy – a good example of how to turn waste into a recycled material. They create soft acoustics, are warm to the touchand create a beautiful cool light and colour tone with strong durability.”
Loyly is eco-certified using wind and solar power. The spa’s location is perched on the edge of a river, immersed in its natural surroundings. The designers decided against water power to avoid disturbing the surrounding waters, not to mention their client Jasper Pääkkönen, a passionate fisherman is also an Antero Vartia Member of Parliament in their green environmentalist party. Ville says, “This type of visionary approach to design, architecture and technology is needed now more than ever as we move forward and face issues like climate change.”