Architectural Human Factors and Re-engineering in Elderly Care

(Image retrieved from The Lancet Neurology)

A topic not actively discussed includes the potential therapeutic effect of architecture as well as horticulture to produce an innovative effect in preventing or slowing the development of chronic disease. Could architecture regarding the application of human factors and re-engineering serve as a significant treatment for the elderly?

The Medical Architectural Research Unit (MARU) of London South Bank University evaluated some European cases of architecture that specifically targeted the elderly, as cited in the World Health Design organization’s website. Field visits from 2005-2008 included Finland, Spain, and France.

Various facilities that focus on dementia care were visited by MARU and offer innovative architectural experiences with holistic approaches that appear to influence the elderly. The Viola-koti of Tampere and Kamppi Service Centre of Helsinki facilities are highlights of Finland, and include human factors-oriented recreational facilities with special exercise activities and workshops; multi-level saunas; and buildings with bi-folding windows that give elderly a wonderful view of the on-goings of the world even in the times of cold, dreary winter months. Next, in Spain, the Madrid Alzheimer Centre has been engineered to conduct bio-mechanistic studies on the probable causes of Alzheimer’s, while at the same time influencing those staying at the clinic with units of residence all independent of each other in design – each topped with well-protected, inspiring courtyard gardens. By understanding ways to incorporate a whole spectrum of care, a central garden even is integrated as being part of a horticultural therapy program. Finally, in Paris, France, the Residence de l’Abbaye allows the elderly in a secure environment simulated as a ‘salon’ on a ‘street of activities’ to learn and discuss about the matters of modern politics and societal issues, keeping their worldly lore active and up-to-date.

This process of course is up to the human experience and how we each individually perceive phenomena. Therefore, architectural human factors and re-engineering would have – like any method of therapy – different effects on different individuals. Yet, the truth remains: an often under looked yet obviously significant stimulus is there, right before our eyes, influencing how we move, perceive, and experience our world. What would our world be like, after all, if our city squares were circles, and our buildings ovals instead of rectangles?

References

World Health Design (2012) Elderly Care: Active Ageing. WorldHealthDesign.com. Retrieved April 19th, 2012 from: http://www.worldhealthdesign.com/Elderly-Care-Active-Ageing.aspx

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About Adrian Levitsky

Adrian is a Research Technician and Doctoral Student at Karolinska Institutet's ClinTRID department for Inflammatory (Autoimmune) Disease research. He is a blogger for the Silverevolution initiative by ACCESS Health International. He defended his Masters thesis in Global Health at Karolinska and worked together with the CAMbrella project's Swedish team (http://www.cambrella.eu/home.php) in analyzing global key stakeholders of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Traditional Medicine (TM). He has an avid interest in research. Particularly, he wishes to research CAM/TM and promulgate an evidence base for the potential effectiveness of integrative care -- as this communication still is lacking globally. Adrian has a background starting as a pilot at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which later evolved to studying Human Factors Psychology with a drive to understand how man and machine work together. This field often focuses heavily on research and involves testing available theories or finding new solutions to prevent work-related injuries, reduce stress, and emphasize usability/ergonomics. Teaching English in South Korea made him realize the need for innovation and imagination for all school curricula in order to solve today’s dilemmas.

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