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Ikea design has nothing on KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Centre for Health and Building.  The KTH Centre for Health and Building (CHB) undertakes Research and Design (R&D) projects in cooperation with universities, industrial companies, municipalities and county councils – always taking into consideration universal design.

Every feature in the CHB Full Scale Living Laboratory is adaptable, adjustable, sustainable and accounts for all of life’s transitions. New technologies are tested in the Lab to help people live independent lives before being passed on to field research.

In the Lab, The Centre is testing home and sensor networks, communication and support systems, surveillance and alarm systems, hard- and software for cognitive support in the home, stand­ardized home adaptations, inclusive ergonomic support technology, facility management models for residential housing.

CHB capabilities include construction building technologies, plan­ning and logistics, energy and water resource management, facility management, in-door climate, housing design, safety and work environment, medical ergonomics, patient safety and aged care.

Karin Nordh, R&D Coordinator, shared some photos of the Lab features with us:

The Living Room offers wide spaces, even surfaces and light moving furniture.

Each element in this sustainable bathroom is adjustable, from the toilet seat, to the sink.

The Kitchen features adjustable counter-tops, wheelchair accessible appliances and low-reaching cabinets.


As part of LeadingAge’s Annual Meeting taking place 21-24 October 2012 in Denver, Colorado, the LeadingAGe IdeaHouse takes the spotlight in innovative design.  Combining 110 ideas, this year’s house boasts an array of designs and technology applications in a new 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom cottage-style home.

30 companies will be exhibiting this highly sought-after design in senior care and architectural trends. At the heart of the project stand the guiding principles: aging in place, technology in design, sustainable design, affordability and flexibility.  As trends progress, the IdeaHouse brings the latest in senior living design and aging services technology.

The model life-sized house is being built by Freeman Decorating with architectural and interior design by THW Design from Atlanta, Georgia.

The display has been showcased at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting since 2009, but the 2012 IdeaHouse has been completely redesigned to show the latest trends and bring ideas to various levels of senior care.

This year the theme is focused around ideas and how four different individuals and their caregivers can use these ideas to improve their quality of life. The retail value of the 2012 design is $400,000 (USD).

You can get a live viewing during the 2012 Annual Meeting.  For more information, visit or take a tour on youtube:

In 2006, the World Health Organization developed a project on “Age-Friendly Cities”.  The project was completed as a practical guide in 2007, but the results are far from over.  The checklist of essential features of age-friendly cities includes developments in:

WHO's age friendly cities

Key Areas for Age-Friendly Cities [credit: World Health Organization]

  •  Outdoor spaces and buildings
  •  Transportation 
  •  Housing
  •  Social Participation
  •  Respect and Social Inclusion
  •  Civic Participation and employment
  •  Communication and information

So five years later, who is in the running of the most age-friendly cities?

Singapore: In 2010, Dr. Kang Soon Hock issued an update via the Institute of Policy Studies on Singapore’s progress. Singapore has improved in major areas including smoother transitions from hospital to homes, introduction of universal design of buildings and a neat crosswalk that gives you the option for more time to cross!

Brussels: Brussels was named the first Age-friendly city and has since began to offer a 65+ travel pass for travel within Brussels and communes (homes for the elderly) run dedicated services for senior citizens in their respective areas. 

Ljubljana: One of the many accomplishments of Slovenia’s capital has been the creation of assertiveness programs for medical service users intended to enhance their rights to social security and health insurance. Mayor Zoran Jankovic also plans to improve transportation and make Ljubljana “the cleanest city in Europe.”

New York:  In 2009 the New York Mayor’s office together with various city departments came out with 59 initiatives that would enhance city living for older citizens. It was the first city to respond to WHO’s initiative.

Ireland’s Age Friendly Counties – The Ageing Well Network allows Ireland’s communities to participate in the development of caring communities.  It currently features eight age-friendly counties who all subscribe to WHO’s guidelines. CARDI (Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland) issued a thorough report this month).

China is also making progress in improving its cities.  The Future City Initiative presented by Xuejin Zuo, (Tokyo, 2012) demonstrated some urban design concepts.  In August 2012, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) will host a conference in Taipei on age-friendly cities and age-friendly economics to show-off some more plans.

Finding a good car is difficult enough, with sky-rocketing gas prices, ever increasing gadgets and rising sales costs.  For those who use wheelchairs or caregivers who transport loved ones in wheelchairs, the challenge can seem even greater.  From expert resources and user reviews, we compiled this list that can kick-start your search for the most comfortable and most user-friendly vehicle.

Kenguru cars allow drivers to roll right in.


Before purchasing, here are some things to consider:

–  Ease of parking – Consider a ramp extension or space to pull out the wheel chair in addition to finding  a vehicle that can comfortably fit into standard parking spaces.

–   Space – You want to not only be able to get the passenger and wheelchair into the car, but to also have enough leg room. The height of the doors and storage space should allow for easy transfer of the passenger and wheelchair in and out quickly.

–   Utility – Considerations that may be taken for granted are orientation of functions such as the height of the steering wheel and layout of navigation tools which may need to be adjusted in standard vehicles.

1)      Honda Element – This car has a seating configuration that is inherently accommodating for those in wheelchairs, and frequently needs little or no modifications for those using wheelchairs. The doors are more than accommodating in size for a wheelchair. It offers options for style, performance, and accommodation of lifestyle. The Element is more affordable than a modified van.

2)      Ams Vans Minivan – A minivan is considerably cheaper than an SUV alternative and tends to have lower doors.  These cars also tend to have a higher passenger capacity than a standard sedan.  The seats fold down so you can move around inside without climbing over seats.  On the downside, they tend to not accommodate wider or taller wheelchairs.

3)      MV-1 Mobility Car – Due to a green CNG fueling system, this vehicle has better gas mileage than a standard minivan. Parking is easy and it showcases a classy interior and safety features including anti-slip surfaces and electronic stability control. This model however, does not allow occupants to drive independently and driving does take getting used to, particularly when the car is full of passengers.

4)     Chevrolet Silverado Truck– Companies such as Mobility SVM (formerly Go Shichi) offer Disability Accessible Trucks that they themselves converted or will convert for you. The model they most frequently work with is the Chevrolet Silverado, though the GMC Sierra 1500 series has also been popular. Trucks are useful for those who continue working, gardening or just need to cart around a lot of equipment.  Gas is more expensive for trucks, as of course is parking.

5)     Kenguru– More like a wheelchair scooter, the Kenguru is an invention from Norway that is a great alternative to getting around locally and for short trips.  It accelerates up to 60 miles per hour and is fairly small to fit almost anywhere.  The vehicle allows wheel-chair drivers to roll right in to propel the car straight from their wheelchair.  However, there is no storage space or room to transport other riders.

At the 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) this week, the Clothbot, a personal modular robot, has been developed with the aspiration to assist in home care.  This digital friend can be of valuable use in monitoring health of the elderly or disabled.

Created by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, this tech friend can climb up and down stairs, navigate across rugged surfaces, and follow you around.

Its creators, headed by Yuanyuan Liu, envisioned a robot that can:

–          Conduct “body inspection”

–          “Act as a movable phone on our shoulder with frees human hands”

–          “A tiny pet climbing on human bodies”

While others might find this invasive or perhaps creepy, there is a great potential benefit that can come from an interactive robot like Clothbot:

–          A tracking and monitoring device to assist someone who is unable to grip or hold other devices, such as a phone, can be extremely beneficial

–          An alarm system that alerts the recipient of the information any potential danger, similar to sensory detectors or alarms

–          Increase interaction and activity among idle elders (similar robots have been used as games)

–          Companionship  – Just recently, Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering recommended similar autonomous devices such as the Dream Cat Venus to provide companionship to older people.


With the world’s population ageing at a rapid pace, there is a growing need for new ways to provide residential care for older people. IAHSA member Jeffrey Anderzhon, FAIA, has spearheaded the latest edition of Design for Aging, a book that explores successful schemes around the world. Written by an international team of experts in aged care design, the book includes cases from Australia, Denmark, England, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States. The authors describe how each scheme has addressed the needs of its residents despite variations in design, geography, cultural factors, medical needs, capital cost, and other factors. Clear, well-documented information for each facility includes:

• Building descriptions and project data, and how the overall design fits within a geographical location

• The type of community, including number of residents, ethnicity, and specific conditions such as dementia

• How to apply universal design principles in different political, social, and regulatory contexts

• How to create a sense of belonging and well-being for residents while building strong connections with the community at large

• What makes a facility able to attract and retain high-quality caregivers

• Environmental sustainability issues, plus indoor and outdoor spaces

Architects and interior designers as well as facility owners and caregivers will find Design for Aging an inspiring and practical guide on how to navigate the many factors involved in creating good designs for aged care environments. Interested in receiving a copy? You can order online.

Photo courtesy of  ClatieK

Five innovative solutions have been developed to help people living with dementia as part of the Design Council challenge. The teams behind these solutions include designers, entrepreneurs and service providers, as well as experts in nutrition, dog training and olfaction. The concepts are focused on and around the point of diagnosis, aiming to be preventative measures that improve quality of life in the early stages of dementia for the increasing numbers of people being diagnosed. The five solutions demonstrate the vast potential of innovative ideas in an under-served market and show how design can play a key role in confronting a major social challenge. The Dementia Dog is one of the five examples, described as “assistance dogs for the mind”.

Dementia Dog is a service providing assistance dogs to people with dementia, helping them lead more fulfilled independent and stress-free lives. A sense of routine can often disintegrate for people with dementia. Dogs can be trained to live to a consistent routine. Ultimately, each dog will be trained with the person with dementia and their carer so all three can operate as a team.

Learn more about the pilot project on dementia dogs underway in the United Kingdom by visiting the website.

Photo courtesy  Tropewell.

The Peak Leadership Summit is underway in Washington, D.C. and hundreds of elder care leaders are gathered to learn and share current challenges in the field.  This afternoon, participants heard from Dan Heath, who shared highlights of his recent book Switch.

Here are his seven strategies  for leading change in challenging times:

1)      Know what the goal is. Whether it’s a culture change initiative or a campaign to increase hand washing among clinical staff, be crystal clear about the end point that you are trying to reach.

2)      Provide scripts for core behaviors. By letting people know exactly what is expected of them, they are more likely to be able to achieve and sustain organizational change.

3)      Pay attention to what is working. When someone complains about service, you probably try to identify the staff involved. If someone praises the service they have received, it is important to recognize that staff person. Focus on what people and the institution are doing right in regard to the issue you are seeking to improve.

4)      Break change into actionable steps. When clear actionable steps aren’t provided, people feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. By providing small steps, you can help your staff implement the desired change on a daily basis.

5)      Find out what sort of feelings are motivating your staff. Tap into the positive emotions that can provide internal motivation to excel.

6)      Use behavioral conditioning. The behaviors and moods of others are contagious. Make the desired behaviors and changes visible and staff will model and reinforce change.

7)      Use environmental cues to action. If you are trying to get clinical staff to wash their hands for a certain period of time, install automatic faucets that dispense water for that period of time. If clinical staff should use a paper towel to open a door handle, provide a trashcan near the door. These types of simple environmental cues to action reinforce messaging and help people achieve change.

Interested in learning more? Check out Dan’s book or consider joining the EAHSA meeting that will feature sessions on culture change.

Dan Heath talks with a  workshop participant.

Designers and architects often claim to be age friendly, but how can they be sure that their product really works well for people with mobility limitations? The Third Age Suit is an empathy suit developed to simulate the effects of loss of mobility and declining sensory acuity, which can occur with the ageing process and also with certain clinical conditions. It was designed to help answer the question of how designers, who may be fully fit and active, really know if their designs work in practice for people with some loss of mobility or declining sensory perception.

The suit was developed by Howard Jeffrey Ph.D.  for his U.K. based company Mobilistrictor.   The Third Age Suit was shared with participants of the 2012 By Design Conference, an annual event that provides design industry professionals the opportunity to access the latest thinking and research in the field of senior living. “This innovative Third Age Suit enables us to truly understand the confines of limited mobility of the clients we serve,” states Tye Campbell, CEO of SFCS.   “We are excited to be able to share this ingenious device with our colleagues, customers, the media, and co-workers as they strive to build, design, and care for seniors. Our mantra is always looking forward to ‘what’s next’. We believe this Restrictor Suit will assist us as we continue to progress into more functional designs for seniors”.

A Designer Tries Out Third Age Suit

The Town of Victoria Park in West Australia has constructed a “Rejuvenation Station” to encourage physical activity and fun among seniors. Exercise can help maintain strength and balance as you age, and can improve physical and mental wellbeing. The equipment in Read Park has been designed with seniors in mind and complements other activity programmes for seniors. Check out the full story on the town of Victoria Park website.

Does your community have a park to encourage elders to stay active? Would you use such a park if it was available?

Photo courtesy Town of Victoria Park

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IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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