The Role of ‘Home’ in Caregiving – The Role of Partnerships in the Future of Caregiving

By Guest Blogger Susanne Stadler, Co-Founder of At Home With Growing Old; Architect and Owner of Stadler Architecture.

At last week’s ‘Thought Leader Roundtable and Dinner’ Family Caregiver Alliance of San Francisco kicked off a discussion on the future of care giving by looking at the potential that private and public partnerships can provide.  This comes at a time when many funding sources for nonprofits are in jeopardy, when caregiving needs are rising because of the “tsunami” of the aging baby boomers, when care and healing has been mostly outsourced from the hospital to the family home, nursing homes or hospice and when families’ economic base is increasingly at risk because of care giving duties of family members.

I am grateful to Kathy Kelly, the executive director of FCA who invited an architect to join the discussion. It recognizes that our homes play an especially important role in our lives when we age at home and needs for various levels of physical and emotional support in daily living arise sooner or later. It is a dream come true for me and the continuation of my work with our ongoing interdisciplinary forum “At Home With Growing Old”  –  to bring together the disciplines who shape how we live and age in our homes – the prerequisite for  imaginative, integrated and human centered solutions.

Here is what I would have liked to say to rally the troops if time had allowed.

1. More and more people will age in their own homes – either by choice or necessity. Every home is potentially a home to grow old in. Therefore every home is potentially a point of care.

2. It takes a deep understanding of the diverse needs of aging to design environments for people to be “at home with growing old”.  Architects/designers and technologists need to be involved in the debate about caregiving to produce imaginative, beautiful solutions. Caregivers and “end users” need to ask for design excellence.

3. Standardized rules are a point of departure, not the solution.  The design rules known as the “Americans with Disability Act (ADA)” have become mandatory in 1990 for publicly funded housing and buildings with public functions.  A milestone – yet, as with many standardized rules, they have become a disincentive for imaginative, human centered solutions and have been misunderstood to satisfy the needs for “aging in place”. It is time to use our collective imagination to move beyond these standards.

4. We have to take risks. Pressed for efficient and cost effective solutions we all tend to deploy our proven strategies. If we really want to produce human centered design solutions, we have to be prepared to rethink and reinvent – not only in technology but in the practices of creating and funding environments that serve people throughout their life phases.

5. We are designing for ourselves. Why would not we want to put our creative energy behind solutions that will benefit all of us?
How can we formalize partnerships, between disciplines, between private and public institutions and organizations that allow us to reach the goals of human centered design solutions?

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