The following is a guest post from Jeffrey W. Anderzhon, FAIA, of Crepidoma Consulting. Jeff is a long time IAHSA supporter, as well as a founding member of our International Design for Ageing Symposium & Showcase team.

Almost everyone who stays in tune with the world’s aging population knows that Korea is one of the fastest aging countries. It is also a country that is well aware of the issues that it faces in this regard and is a country searching for solutions.

Traditionally, elderly Korean parents were cared for by their adult children in an extended familial setting. With the country’s generally booming economy, save for the current economic slowdown, families have depended more on two incomes, a population movement toward cities and a desire for independence from traditional responsibilities as individuals move into a ‘global’ culture. Korean society has become hungry for solutions that are culturally appropriate but that also provide contemporary solutions for their increasingly elderly population.

I had the opportunity and pleasure of sharing examples of how the world is addressing care and housing options with the Korean Gerontological Society in Seoul and at the 3rd Annual International Symposium on Aging in Gwanju at the end of November. This was accomplished by sharing the great examples provided to IAHSA through the International Design Symposium first presented in London at the IAHSA conference.

Lecturers seated together at the Gwangju ISA conference

The interest that was shown for how other countries are providing for their elderly was overwhelming. There is significant interest in Korea for providing meaningful environments, with a distinct Korean cultural overlay, for the aging population. This interest is both sincere and introspective with a distinct desire to “do it correctly” by learning from other cultures and from other projects. IAHSA has played an important role to date within this movement and will maintain its connection to the Korean initiatives through Professor Yeunsook Lee, an advisor to IAHSA from Yonsei University in Seoul and a well respected authority in Korea and all of Asia on the elderly.

As residents of the world community we must consider the entire world’s elderly population and how each country succeeds in enhancing their quality of life. Cultural differences may involve differing and unique approaches, but fundamentally care and housing for the elderly in all cultures involves security, human interaction and protection from nature’s harsh elements. Korea is a society that needs to provide for their elderly and a society that is willing and able to look at how other cultures and countries are accomplishing this. As a part of the IAHSA family, I am proud to have contributed in some small way to moving them forward.