Symposium to focus on ‘livable communities’

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Conversations about upcoming massive demographic changes, such as the doubling of the older population in the next 25 years, traditionally center on aging as an individual phenomenon and the difficulties associated with an aging body.

But Phil Stafford, director of Indiana University’s Center on Aging and Community and author of “Elderburbia: Aging with a Sense of Place,” explained that there is a second important dimension to aging.

“Well-being at any age is a factor of the relationship between our bodies and the environment,” said Stafford. “Hence, we must design improved environments. It’s not simply a matter of adding more and more services, which we can never accomplish anyway.”

M. Scott Ball

M. Scott Ball

That’s the theme of “New Thinking about the Design of Environments for A Lifetime – From Closet to Community, a symposium taking place this week at the Indiana Memorial Union at IU Bloomington. M. Scott Ball, author of “Livable Communities for Aging Populations,” will introduce the symposium with a keynote address titled “The Evolution of Senior Housing.”

The keynote address is from 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday, in the Indiana Memorial Union and is free and open to the public. The symposium is from 8:30-3:30 p.m. Friday in the Indiana Memorial Union and requires a $60 registration fee that includes breakfast, a luncheon and a reception.

The symposium follows years of transition in how elder care is generally approached. Families are trading in the gated sun model of retirement in favor of moving to walkable communities, such as Bloomington.

However, environments that are not designed for an older population make it difficult for them to enjoy a social life, Stafford explained. Some environments are even life-threatening. Streets designed for cars only, dilapidated sidewalks, improper signage and tight bathroom spaces all make it difficult for an aging population to enjoy their community. In some cases, poor design forces the elderly to stay confined to their homes.

This problem of design extends well beyond the U.S. Stafford explained that youth groups in Uganda are working to help their elderly acquire regular toilets to replace the traditional pit toilets, which are nearly impossible for elders to use without falling.

“It’s a poignant example and I love it because it helps clarify the value of intergenerational approaches to these issues,” said Stafford.

Anyone interested but who cannot attend the symposium on Thursday is invited to attend a second talk by Ball, titled “Applied Special Districting in Designing New Commons,” from noon-1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Tocqueville Room of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, 514 N. Park Ave.

Those interested in attending the Friday symposium can register online or contact Stafford at 812-855-2163 or with additional questions.

Attendees are encouraged to use the hashtag #Design4SAP on social media to connect with others at the symposium and those following along at home.


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