What was great about last week was the diverse groups of people I had the chance to meet who are all talking about aging in place - but from different points of view. The gerontologists spoke of this topic from social barriers. Another group was creating an older 55 development in far west Stillwater and yet another group was planning a seniors co-housing community that is ready to break ground this week for the construction of 24 homes. Representatives from the United Way of Central Oklahoma also chimed into the conversation during the week long trip and spoke about a symposium they will hold in the Spring of 2012. Students were being educated on creating residential spaces with an aging client. There was even a financial consultant on hand in one meeting to share how elders were facing challenges in light of the current economic environment and what solutions there are for this group.
If there was a lesson to be learned from the experience to engage with such a diverse audience, it was this: There is a need to create a larger conversation and venue among all the parties who see this evolution as something more than just a trend. It is an opportunity to raise the standard of life and quality of care for millions.
With 76 million baby boomers contemplating their retirement and with the previous generation living longer years, we have an obligation to create all sorts of spaces that will support and sustain a quality of life that allows one to choose independence over dependence.
Imagine the possibilities to bring together designers, architects, builders, financial planners, real estate professionals, occupational and physical therapists and gerontologists together. Just imagine the outcomes as these groups cross pollenate and as a result the development of programs to educate the elders and boomers about their options as they look to their later years. And imagine the support that could be created by joining forces to help those with limited abilities to stay in a place of their choosing and at a cost they can afford,... saving the taxpayer in the long run from having to provide the resources to institutionalize so many.
As Ted Drab, ASID, OSU senior professor and educator stated during at the conclusion of last week's activities, "Your trip to OSU was to be a catalyst to get the departments of human sciences to start talking with one another and you helped us succeed." But the amazing things was that the conversation grew rapidly to include so many outside the OSU design department and it clearly shows that Aging In Place is alive and well.