In Search of 'Eldertopia'
Lisa Selin Davis
Jan 31, 2013
Some 54 million Americans over the age of 55 are hoping to grow old in their own homes, and that population should increase by 50 percent over the next 30 years. Their hope is no easy thing to realize, because most American housing stock wasn’t built grow (or shrink) with us as our needs evolve.
But cutting edge strategies for aging-in-place are coming from an unlikely source: the university classroom.
"We have a responsibility to train the next generation of architects to think about accessibility and housing flexibility," says Georgeen Theodore, associate professor and director of the Infrastructure Planning Program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. "It shouldn’t just be a niche market for older adults, but part of the larger project of housing."
Theodore's students interviewed senior citizens to understand their needs at different stages of life, then considered the full spectrum of issues related to aging in place: connectivity, transit, density and social interaction among them. Incorporating these notions, her students dreamed up housing types and communities that could shift with the needs of the inhabitants.
One model might look like this: a two-family house in which a young couple could live in one unit early in life, expand into the second unit when they had a family of their own, and then contract again into one unit for the empty nest years. This could work not just because it addresses the social and physical aspects of housing for older adults, but because it comes with a built-in economic angle: a family or individual could finance aging-in-place by renting out that second unit.
"Typically, when architects design a building, they are designing it for its first users," says Theodore. "In the studio, we designed our housing and community infrastructure to accommodate change over the years."
At Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Professor Dan D’Oca—Theodore’s partner at the planning and design firm Interboro Partners—taught a studio on age-friendly design. "We wanted [the students] to consider, and design for, this massively changing demographic," says D’Oca.
The ideas ranged from the simple and entrepreneurial to the grand and policy-oriented. They included a power scooter-sharing program, modeled after bike shares; multi-generational playgrounds; accessory dwelling units grafted onto existing garden apartments; and a "Belt Bus" that would connect the various NORCs near the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, whose residents currently have no way to interact.
For the complete article, visit the following link: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2013/01/how-build-eldertopia/4514/
Image Source: Katie Chu
January 24, 2013
By: The Canadian Mental Health Association
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division (CMHA Ontario), in partnership with YMCA Ontario, and Parks and Recreation Ontario (PRO), has launched the Enabling Minds project. Recognizing the importance of recreation in promoting optimal physical and mental health, Enabling Minds aims to reduce barriers that prevent people with mental health-related disabilities from accessing physical activity programs and resources at community centres, fitness clubs, parks and other recreational or fitness facilities.
The project will develop tools and training resources to support organizations in the recreation and physical activity sector to meet the requirements of the customer service and information and communication standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The resources developed through the project will be available by spring 2014.
The Enabling Minds project is now recruiting volunteers to sit on an Advisory Committee to provide expert feedback and advice on the process and deliverables of the project. Membership will comprise individuals with knowledge and understanding of the recreation/physical fitness environment, and/or professional expertise in the mental health sector, and/or lived experience of mental health issues. The role of the Advisory Committee is to ensure that the resources and training curriculum are tailored to the needs of service providers and will enhance accessibility for people with mental health-related disabilities.
The Enabling Minds project is funded by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario's EnAbling Change Program.
For project information, or to express your interest in joining the Advisory Committee, please visit the Enabling Minds project website.
Accessible parks and playgrounds are set to become more common in Ontario in the coming years. Once formally enacted, the Accessible Built Environment Standard (ABES) under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is expected to require that all newly built or substantially renovated playgrounds, meet or exceed the requirements of CAN/CSA Z614-07 Annex H, a standard that provides specific requirements for the design of accessible playgrounds in Canada. Currently, compliance with this standard is voluntary, although some municipalities such as Edmonton have adopted it as a formal policy. Complying with Annex H means that municipalities, school boards and other playground operators will need to upgrade their traditional playgrounds to be accessible when their current playground equipment needs to be replaced.
According to a recent Toronto Star article, the City of Toronto currently has two fully accessible public playgrounds, located at Oriole Park and Earl Bales Park (not including any playgrounds operated by school boards or other organizations). Both of these playgrounds were constructed with the help of private donors as the City has decided to wait until the ABES requirements are finalized before proceeding with widespread accessible playground construction. In the meantime, according to a 2010 City Staff report the City has incorporated some accessible features, such as engineered wood fiber surfacing, into new and renovated playgrounds. A third fully accessible Toronto public playground, at Jeff Healey Park (formerly Woodford Park) in Etobicoke is currently in the design stages, while community members are currently raising funds for its construction. The City may also take the opportunity to make the Jamie Bell Adventure Park in High Park accessible when repairs are made following a recent arson attack on the play structure.
Meanwhile in Hamilton, Marydale Park is currently under construction by the Catholic Youth Organization of Hamilton. This new accessible park will offer numerous facilities including a playground, dock and fishing platform, swimming pools, playing field, picnic pavilions, and nature trails. The entire park and all of its amenities will be fully accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Elsewhere, other municipalities and groups are choosing not to wait until the ABES is finalized and are moving forward with accessible playgrounds. The federal government announced last week that the City of Oshawa has been awarded a grant from the Enabling Accessibility Fund to install new accessible playground equipment. In Caledon, the Town has installed a number of accessible playgrounds in recent years.
One major challenge with accessible playgrounds is their cost. Given that traditional sand or gravel playground surfaces are not accessible, any new accessible playgrounds must include more expensive engineered wood fiber or rubber surfaces, which can quickly drive up project costs. Accessible playground equipment can also be more expensive than traditional equipment. As a result, other organizations are taking a different approach. The Greater Essex County District School Board has closed many of their traditional playgrounds and is planning to replace them with naturalized, inclusively designed playgrounds, which will be accessible to people with disabilities. These playgrounds are more expensive to install initially, but will save money over the long term due to decreased maintenance costs.
Note: Updated April 25, 2012 to include additional information on the City of Toronto's accessible playground initiatives.