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 Phillip Rollfing  

Software for Designers

Faculty craft software to help designers
create better environments for elderly



Elderly residents of long-term-care facilities may long to go outdoors, but the designs of their new homes do not always make that easy. Now, a Texas A&M University architecture professor is developing a multimedia guide to help designers of nursing homes and assisted-living complexes build environments that help residents enjoy nature.

" Research in architecture and landscape design has revealed that professionals in these fields don't always know how to build elderly-friendly features that make the grounds of long-term-care facilities accessible to their residents," says Susan Rodiek, who is associate director of the Center for Health Systems & Design (CHSD), a joint research center of the College of Architecture and the Texas A&M System Health Science Center. "So several colleagues, including CHSD Fellows Elton Abbot and Marcia Ory, and I decided to put together a series of CDs showing them how."

The interactive, multimedia series is called "Lifezones for Aging: Design of Outdoor Space in Long-term-care Facilities." Funded by SBIR grant #1 R43 AG024786-01 from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the series will detail research and best-practice design guidelines in an easy-to-grasp format for busy architects, landscape designers, construction professionals, and facility owner/operators.

" Busy professionals are not reading the materials on this subject which are already available," Rodiek says. "This CD series uses multimedia to present the most important points in short, easy-to-understand, interactive format. That way, people who use the CD can repeat information as necessary or get more information by accessing the embedded resources or the Web links included with each presentation."

Rodiek, Abbot, also an architecture professor, and Ory, a professor at the School of Rural Public Health, have finished the first CD, "Outdoor Space for Aging," and have applied for additional NIA funding to complete the series, which they estimate will cover five to seven additional relevant design topics.

" Making the first CD was Phase One of our project," Rodiek says. "We sent the draft version for review to 100 industry leaders, including government policy planners, executives of healthcare provider organizations, practicing architects, architecture professors and officers of voluntary organizations like the AARP. They evaluated the lesson and told us they liked it learned from it. We received high scores from all of them on learning-value, enjoyment and usefulness, and 23 of them wrote letters of recommendation for our application for continued funding.

" We are committed to improving the health of people who live in long-term-care facilities by making research findings available to those who design such facilities and their environments. We see our work as building a bridge between academic research and real world practice. Right now, there's nothing quite like this series of interactive CDs in existence.

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"Lifezones for Aging: Design of Outdoor Space in Long-term-care Facilities" (screenshot)