Designing with Aging In Mind

Aurea Osgood, a professor of Sociology at Winona State University in Minnesota, spent a semester dreaming up eldertopias. “I wanted the students to make a perfect world for the elderly,” she says. Her students spent the semester studying healthy modes of aging ‘what makes it fun and feel good to be old’ and investigating things that already worked in the world around them. Small changes, like adding wheelchair lifts to public buses, were just as important as accessible housing, they found.


Image courtesy of Katie Chu

They honed in on the importance of inter-generational housing and activities that drew on the expertise and experience of the older generation. Aging in place is not always about the design of physical spaces, but the activities that take place within them, and who else lives there.

‘We don’t necessarily need special buildings if older adults are invited into elementary schools to spend a day with students,’ says Osgood, although, admittedly, elders need to be able to get from their home to the school.

Her students proposed education programs in which seniors taught courses based on their expertise, while their young students taught them to Skype. They suggested community centers on college campuses, elder-taught cooking or gardening classes, and expanded public transit routes.

Forward thinking.

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About Matthew Peterworth

I currently work as a Technology Specialist at Henderson Engineers in Kansas City – a Mechanical-Electrical-Plumbing (MEP) design firm. Prior to that I was a Project Manager for Information Technology Services (ITS), the central IT department at the University of Texas at Austin. As of July 2008 I am a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) through BICSI. And as of June 2011 I am a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the great state of Texas. Please follow me on Twitter @mpeterworth. https://twitter.com/mpeterworth

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