The road ahead

This month marks a milestone in the evolution of senior environmental design. Why such a portentous statement? Because this issue of DESIGN that you are holding—our 12th annual issue, dubbed DESIGN 2008—was released at our second Environments for Aging (EFA) conference, with significant implications for the future.

Attentive readers have seen ads for the conference in our publications Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management (now Long-Term Living) and HEALTHCARE DESIGN. Environments for Aging began in 2007 as an effort to focus attention on the latest design and planning trends in this field. These are the trends that, in part, motivated the Nursing Homes/Long-Term Living name change this month, and even led to the creation of a new department in the magazine itself called “Environments for Aging.”

The trends, in a nutshell, are toward providing environments encouraging and accommodating an active approach to aging, treating it as a lively and engaging late phase of life. The concept is a far cry from the “rest homes” of yesteryear, with all their connotations of permanently dependent elderly. Today's concept might be a throwback to the more rugged model exemplified by (among others) my great-grandfather, who actively worked his farm until he was 93 years old and, as the Peck family says, “died with his boots on.” Except the emphasis today is more on enriching those years than on demanding continued hardscrabble survival.

This issue of DESIGN still offers a facility-based orientation—this still remains our focus. But you will find strong hints of things to come—designs to engage residents in active lifestyles, to offer them more choices, to enliven the visiting experience for family and friends, in short, to add life to years, not just years to life.

This design evolution continues outside the magazine. A touchstone is the involvement of members of the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), our long-time publishing partner in DESIGN, as leaders in developing and presenting EFA.

Another touchstone: The addition, for the first time, of a co-publishing partner for DESIGN, the Center for Health Design (CHD). CHD has led the way in establishing evidence-based design in healthcare for many years and has been our partner in publishing our acute care design magazine, HEALTHCARE DESIGN. CHD and SAGE now find themselves involved in a very interesting (and unofficial) merging of long-term care design and acute care design, coming together over the challenge of accommodating aging residents and patients.

And what characterizes “the road ahead”? Well, the EFA roster features, among other topics: urban revitalization, transportation, wellness, aging in place, late-life education, and culture change. You will see many of the highlights in subsequent issues of Long-Term Living this year. Hopefully, next year will see many of you participating in EFA. My guess is that next year's issue of DESIGN will give you even more justification for doing so. D


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Topics: Articles , Design