Architecture for the Aging

Robert Kasirer immigrated to the United States when he was a young boy, accompanying his parents who had survived the Nazi attempt to conquer Europe. He became a lawyer, an entrepreneur, and an innovator in the health care industry. In addition, Robert Kasirer supports ongoing research into aging and society, as well as several charitable causes, including the JacobRose Family Foundation, which focuses on the challenges faced by aging populations.

One of the most severe of these challenges is housing. The traditional house or apartment can be inhospitable to seniors with mobility or other issues. The JacobRose Family Foundation sponsored a recent conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design to explore the issue and consider different approaches to architecture for the aging. Highlighting the scope of the current problem, one architect said, “There are 17,000 nursing homes in America, and 17,000 reasons not to move into them.”

Participants at the conference saw presentations of how architecture for the aging is handled in different societies. In Northern Europe, for instance, programs such as home care visits and meals-on-wheels are very reliable and help seniors stay in their own homes longer. Some of these communities employ principles of New Urbanism, such as clustered housing with centralized common spaces and services located within reasonable walking distance.

Many other innovations were discussed at the conference. For example, since many seniors are bedridden or confined to wheelchairs, they often cannot see out of windows, which are usually 30 inches to 32 inches above the floor. Architects at the conference described such solutions as lowering windows, replacing a single community room with several smaller gathering spaces, and creating outdoor gardens and eating areas.

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