The World is a Stage

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A cousin mentioned that they had taken a tour to the Research Institute for Aging, which was developed under the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College and the Schelgal Group.

This is not a group of people spread all over a campus that go into a few Long Term Care (LTC) facilities around the city to occasionally check things out. They have created a community, called the Village of Riverside Glen, which includes a 192-bed, three-story, LTC facility, which is attached to classrooms in the research institute for aging, attached to two other larger high rise buildings, which include independent seniors apartments, semi-independent seniors apartments, assisted memory care apartments and Retirement Home all on different floors.

The really cool part is the Town Square, which separates these two buildings. This all creates a small village in which they can study what seniors need in a community.

This small village was designed with learning, research and social spaces, which allow the meeting and mixing of older adults, students, educators and researchers. It is also home to University and College programs for learning and research related to not only seniors care, but also living needs.

When I started reading about this project my first thought was, ‘thank goodness someone is trying to figure out what to do when all the Baby Boomers that need help.' I am going to use some of the information off their website www.the-ria.ca, as they explain it a lot better than I can.

Changing demographics are putting increasing pressure on health care costs and funding for the health care system to the point that it will not be sustainable for the future. The answers lie in innovation and leadership.

This research area identifies aspects of the physical environment that can contribute to healthy aging. Architecture and urban design can play a major role in allowing older adults to remain active – both physically active and socially active in their local communities.

The aging of Canada’s population will present significant challenges in relation to the buildings, structures and open spaces in which we live, work and play due to: increased longevity, falls in fertility, and the maturing of the baby boomer generation.

Low-density urban development, as in the Region of Waterloo, and many other growing communities is not particularly age-friendly. Features such as rapid suburbanization, dispersed development patterns, the lack of adequate pedestrian infrastructure, separation of land uses and automobile dependence all present significant obstacles to the independence of seniors.

Nevertheless, good architecture and urban design can play a major role in allowing seniors to remain active – both physically active and socially active in their local communities. While there is a significant body of research that investigates housing demand and the characteristics of accessible building environments for seniors, there is comparatively little research that explores the relationship between aging and the urban environment (i.e. public spaces). In particular, research is needed to explore the characteristics/determinants of ‘good’ urban design and its relationship to healthy physical, cognitive and social aging.”

I have been in a wheelchair more than once in my life and know how difficult it is to get around town. I am sure the people who designed our low curbs have never tried to wheel themselves in a regular wheel chair across them, because you can get stuck, or a scooter, which you are sure you will be thrown off. Did you realize that stores with automatic doors allow the disabled in, but how do they get through the next door into the bathroom, or from a doctor’s waiting room into the examination rooms? There are so many small things that stop disabled and seniors from getting around a community. Because the Research Institute For Aging is in the heart of this seniors Village, where they can work one-on-one with the seniors, they will understand the needs which must be addressed.

How innovative, to have the teaching facility and research labs, attached to the senior’s facilities. Research is being done on epidemiology (disease origin and spread) and aging, food for healthy aging, geriatric medicine, brain health and vascular aging and optimizing medications for seniors. There will be studies in physical activity, spiritual needs and a memory clinic.

Tillsonburg especially, with our senior subdivisions, needs to be very aware of the studies going on at the Village, especially in the designs and improvements of our streets and buildings.

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