A summary of one of the panels I chaired at the 9th International Ageing conference on Reshaping Environments to Enable Older People. The line-up included 6 different talks:
- Reshaping the Environment to Promote Seniors’ Independence: Themes and Observations from the case management literature. Beverley Kelley spoke about the ability to meet the needs of the person through their environment and the imporatnce of positively influencing the health career of adults. What if we were to treat our healths as inidivual health careers? Would we be more diligent? Beverley Kelley also pointed out that much of the case management literature neglects to mention family members and their role as care givers.
- Refuge Island? Is it safe to cross? Yue Li with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute spoke about pedestrian crossings and how something as simple as the design of a refuge island could prevent premature death and promote wellbeing and independence for the ageing. In 2004 37% of all pedestrian fatalities were among elders compared with 13.4% of the population. In the EU tje incidence is higher at 46%. Yue Li expressed the importance for universal design for all seasons and winters in particular in countries like Canada, where winters are often the toughest test. It was also interesting to hear that people’s compliance to traffic rules is related to temperature with extreme cold often resulting in violation of pedestrian traffic law. 80% of people will try to make the double crossing when it is very cold, 73% when it is hot, and only 56% when it is fair.
- A study on the Solution for the Hearing Disabled Person’s Behavior Limitation at Sandy Beach: Shimpei Kato has observed the physical barriers to those who are hearing impaired. Most environments only address mobility impairment. Shimpei Kato took a look at the ways in which visual cues could be set up to better alert both the hearing impairment and others within the vicinity that could be of help to them.
- Designing a Supportive Living Environment for Older People with Dementia and Thermal Comfort and HVAC Design for People with Dementia: Joost Van Hoof talked about prolonging the stay at home. Those who suffer from dementia are particularly sensitive to their environments. Research on dementia indicates that a person’s perception of capability is more important than cognitive functioning. And while Joost did not imply that the home is the entire cure, he did show how design could prove a useful ally in the attempt to care for those suffering from dementia; something as simple as creating very clear sightlines could allow the carer to always keep tabs on their partner. Joost also showed some 3D visualizations of an ideal dementia environment to allow the audience to see the difference that design can make.
He also talked about temperature and thermal comfort and how dementia sufferers are particularly sensitive to temperature variation. He pointed out the need for nurses and engineers to work with each other to create better thermal comfort for demented patients.
- Accommodating Sensory Aspects of Ageing in the Design of Dwellings: An architect by training Camilla Ryhl addressed the importance of not only giving those suffering from sensory impairment access to fantastic spaces and architecture, but also giving them access to the amazing sensory experience. Moving beyond the need to satisfy functional requirements for the sensory impaired, Ryhl inspired her audience with the importance of making the sensory experience euqally accessible to all.
- Age-Friendly New York City: Findings and Lessons: Ruth Finkelstein shared her research findings of what it is like to grow old in New York City. Many of the older generation decide to stay and grow old in New York because they love the city. NYC is in the process of trying to implement the WHO Age-Friendly cities initiative and spoke of the need to plan for multiple identities and particularities of population. She reminded the audience that just because people get older does not mean they lose their identity as the public often assumes with older individuals. New York City plans to release their Age-Friendly NYC report on September 15th.
All in all the most important take-aways from the conference was the ability of environments and design to influence the experience of ageing, the potential for the grey and green agenda to be equally integrated in all future design and planning, and the need to make ageing a mainstream issue and not a sideline conversation. It was encouraging to hear at the senior officials meeting that there are governments making progressive decisions to enable better ageing of their societies, but as in most cases, for their policies to take real effect, the ageing discourse needs to move beyond government circles to the private sector.