research TU Delft Design method to integrate elderly-homes in the neighbourhood

How can the built environment promote integration between care depending elderly and their neighborhood? About inviting routings and the possible barrieres.

Research for my MSc thesis at Technical University DELFT to create an analysing method and guidelines for design interventions optimizing probabilities for intergenerational contact. 

The research and guidebook were rewarded with a 9 out of 10 and an honourable mention by the university.

The method has been used for consults in diverse projects aiming to improve contact between elderly in elderly homes and their surroundings.

Research for an analysing method and design approach to improve social integration   Barriers obstructing integration of elderly people and their neighbourhood

Multifunctional building is a rising star in The Netherlands. This counts not only for school-buildings, health institution buildings and community centres, but also for homes and institutions for the elderly people.

If a health-care home for the elderly is combined with some other kind of facility or community function it contributes to the well-being of the inhabitants. The combination of functions can support the potential for the elderly inhabitant of the institution to make contact with the neighbourhood and to keep participating in society. The presents of active elderly people can also contribute positively to the neighbourhood. The image of elderly people can change positively, the social cohesion can be improved, the societal dissemination of tradition and moral can be affected and enhanced and a supporting environment for non-institutional help to the elderly can be improved.

These potentials motivate the Dutch planners and principals of new institutions to combine more functions and to integrate different building typologies like shopping malls, cafeterias and restaurants, medical centres and public libraries. However, in practice the potential of these combinations does not always turn out to be a success. How come these places of meeting and socialising do not fulfil their full potential?

The hypothesis of this paper is that physical barriers have not been accounted for. There is no accurate instrument of analysis to make overall maps of obstructing barriers in the routing between homes of the elderly and the possible places of integration and meeting. Knowledge and information are not suitable for use in design and planning processes of institutions and functions for the elderly.

The research aims at two goals:

1 make a method to analyse properly the possible barriers in the routing of multifunctional and intergenerational building complexes.

2 make an instrument to help designers, principals and other stake-holders implement the knowledge from the analysis in their design.

In the first phase of the research the special function, that was developed to improve the integration between elderly people and the neighbourhood, is judged on probability for use by both actors. In this part of the research different functions like a restaurant, a community building and a kindergarten were observed.

Next, the physical environmental parameters, which could contribute to the quality of the places were the actors can meet, were pinpointed. The appointed qualities are described in terms of duration of the contact, frequency and the territories.

The research is on thin ice in this stage, because also social aspects (can) play a major role in determining the cause of barriers in the possible contact between actors.

The method therefore specifies the routes to the special functions and locations, playing a major role for the actors to get there or not. The routes, from both sides, elderly and the neighbourhood, are being scanned for possible physical barriers or stimuli for contact.

Especially in places on the routes were territory, atmosphere or physical environment changes, the potential of barriers but also for positive stimuli seems to be maximal. The architectural and spacial design seems to play an important role in the success of the integration and contact.

The stimulating or obstructing influence can be found in six architectural aspects:

1 physical accessibility ; 2 social safety ; 3 physical well being ;        4 spatial orientation; 5 psychological accessibility ; 6 choice for privacy

About these core aspects literature was analysed. This research helped elaborate the core aspects into practical aspects of immediate attention incorporated in the method. These practical aspects were, for use in the analysing method, converted into architectural indicators. The indicators are analysed and judged at every physical or influential change in the routing, by colouring specific items in ready to use tables. Immediately the potential of obstructing or stimulating architectural circumstances become visible.

Finally a self-control step, by the creation of an artificial extra change in the routing, is also integrated in the method.

The research is new in its kind because of the conversion of abstract definitions like integration of elderly (and) into practical and concrete architectural circumstances. By recombination of existing knowledge on architectural, social and psychological aspects in the build environment, a very useful and simple to use instrument was designed. The architect and the principal can perform the analysis of the obstructing and stimulation changes in the routing of elderly and the neighbourhood themselves. They can judge the barriers themselves and even research the effects of design changes the same way. In fact the method is that easy to use that the successful use of the method by elderly and the neighbourhood can not be excluded. In that case the instrument would become a powerful instrument for actors to influence the direct aspects of their successful integration themselves.

The research was executed by Renet Korthals Altes during her graduation for architect researcher at the Faculty of Architecture at the Delft University of Technology. The research was approved by Christoph Maria Ravesloot from the methodological and technology aspects, Herman van Wegen from the architectural research aspects and Fokke Wind from the practical aspects regarding housing for the elderly people.

The research was rewarded with a 9 – out of 10 – and an honourable mention by the Technical University of Delft.