Moisan Collaborates with the Gerontological Community
Contributors: Rachel Browne, M.Arch.; Alan
DeLaTorre, Ph.D.; Melissa Cannon, Ph.D.; Margaret A.
Perkinson, Ph.D.; Maria Claver, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Dobson, M.S.
In 2020, for the first time in human history, people
aged 65 and older will outnumber children aged five and younger. This
demographic trend represents a human success story as well as an opportunity
for educators and designers in the field of gerontology to explore new ways to
accommodate the older segment of our population. There are challenges that
accompany designing for the aging, but with our experience with this population
we are well-positioned to be innovative, collaborative, and build on the assets
that exist in our communities.
As the study of aging people evolves globally, so too
does the design of senior housing and communities. Academic theories are
applied to many new senior housing projects, but there is still room to improve
upon how architects and interior designers connect with experts and educators
in the field. How can professional gerontologists better contribute to the
real-world design and development of innovative facilities that promote healthy
This question prompted a two-day session at the 2016 Association
for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) annual conference in Long Beach, CA.
Ankrom Moisan sponsored a design charrette organized in conjunction with Portland
State University (PSU) faculty and the AGHE’s Age-Friendly Design Committee
(AFDC). This team explored how to apply the knowledge and experience of gerontology
experts to the design of a residential care facility located in Southern
commonplace within the architectural community, are planning workshops held to
openly discuss design-related issues and opportunities of a specific project. Generally
held during the preliminary stages of a project’s design and typically over the
course of three to four days, teams identify concerns, brainstorm solutions,
and produce a plan of action to advance the project. For the AGHE
conference, the team hosted an abbreviated two-day charrette to introduce educators
to this design practice. The first of its kind at the conference, the
presenters created a model to promote interprofessional collaborations and
illustrate the tangible benefits of incorporating academic research into senior
living projects, with the goal of presenting similar sessions in the future.
Meet the Team
The Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE)
strives to advance and support gerontology and geriatrics education within
academic institutions and in society at large. Included in that mission is the
goal to advance knowledge and promote the development of age-friendly
environments. Addressed in a guide published by the World Health Organization
in 2007, the term “age-friendly” is used to describe concepts that support the
health and well-being of aging populations and to encourage active aging. Since that report was issued, the
international movement to create age-friendly communities has expanded to
include more than 300 communities in 36 countries, including over 100
communities in the U.S.
The AGHE Age-Friendly Design Committee serves to inform and educate the
AGHE membership, through workshops and/or educational sessions, about the
emerging field of aging-related environmental design. The Committee also
strives to contribute to core competency
standards and curricula in environmental design for older adults. Finally, the
Committee is a vehicle used to inform stakeholders in design (e.g., architects,
city planners, age-friendly collaborators) of gerontological expertise that is relevant
to their work. In an effort to achieve these goals, the Committee chair, Margaret
A. Perkinson (University of Hawaii at Manoa), and co-chair, Alan DeLaTorre (Portland
State University), initiated and implemented the above-mentioned charrette at
the 2016 AGHE conference in Long Beach, CA.
Portland State University’s (PSU)
Institute on Aging (IOA) has been involved in the global age-friendly movement since
Portland, OR became the first U.S. city to participate in the global project in
late 2006. Faculty and students at PSU have long supported the city’s attempt to
create an age-inclusive environment and have also been strong supporters of the
mission and work of AGHE. Committed to translational research that advances
policy and practice, the IOA representatives at the 2016 conference consisted
of team members Melissa Cannon (now at Western Oregon University) and Alan
Rachel Browne, a senior housing researcher at Ankrom
Moisan who earned her Masters in Architecture from PSU, was approached by the IOA
team to participate and aid in facilitation of the charrette. Ankrom Moisan,
with its extensive experience creating vibrant senior living communities along
the West Coast, leant expert design advice to the event.
Local AFDC member Maria Claver (California State University, Long Beach) and
her former student, Long Beach interior designer Elizabeth Dobson,
assumed responsibility for the pre-charrette planning activities. They
identified a local Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) to use as
the charrette’s case study and explained the charrette process to its
leadership. The facility owners welcomed the opportunity to obtain expert
advice for redesigning the facility and allowed the team to present a case
study of the property to the charrette participants.
Charrette Planning for Age-Related Design Issues
The first session of the two-day charrette, titled “Charrette Planning
for Age-Related Design Issues,” introduced attendees to the concept of a
charrette and the goals of the workshop and to the potential value of
gerontological expertise to the charrette process. Once the ground rules were
set, a “virtual” tour of the RCFE was presented by the team and the facility
owner. The tour consisted of carefully selected interior and exterior images
and supporting data from the facility. A
brief role-playing session followed, in which the charrette organizers
simulated the roles of the RCFE owner, a resident, the resident’s caregiving
daughter, an RCFE staff member, and a “not in my backyard” neighbor; these
roles represented different perspectives affecting everyday life in the
facility and the issues that can arise.
This exercise prompted a
general group discussion, after which attendees divided into break-out groups
to further consider design-related issues pertinent to the facility. Some
attendees met on the day between the two workshop sessions for additional
At the second session, participants formed groups of four or five members
and applied their expertise to the case study. Each group selected a different
space in the RCFE, focusing on the goals of (a) improving residents’ social
interactions, and (b) enhancing opportunities for physical activity. The groups
addressed everything from lighting to fall hazards to door hardware. Some
groups rearranged furniture to improve physical connections and others imagined
additional outdoor amenities such as gazebos, raised flower beds, or fountains.
The groups’ conclusions were then shared in a large discussion with
recommendations made directly to the facility’s owner.
Framed in the context of community-based service-learning,
this set of workshops not only helped gerontological educators to realize their
potential impact in the architectural community but also showed the main
stakeholder (the RCFE owner) how valuable gerontology expertise can be in
achieving an age-friendly living environment. Overall, attendees of the charrette had a very positive hands-on
experience as every individual
was introduced to a new way of approaching the design process.
Continuing the Charrette in 2017
The charrette process was unique in providing
gerontologists with instant feedback from architects and designers about their
design solutions for the real world. Experts in gerontology are often limited
to their own academic research and do not have direct exposure to the design of
the built environment. This two-day charrette provided an opportunity for these
experts to recognize their relevance to the design process. The success of this
2016 session inspired planning for another charrette for the AGHE 2017
conference to be held in Miami, FL. The team will use the feedback collected in
Long Beach to inform plans for the Miami workshops. This charrette will enlist
local designers; community agencies; local faculty, students, and older adults;
and AGHE conference attendees to address age-friendly issues in a Miami
community (project scope and goals are being finalized in early 2017).
Since this event, both Dr. Perkinson and Dr. DeLaTorre
have completed the National Charrette Institute’s charrette certification
program. Sponsored by the AGHE’s Founders Innovation Fund (a beneficiary of the
Retirement Research Foundation), the pair attended a three-day training event
structured to provide tools and techniques for planning and running workshops.
This certification aims to enhance the quality and credibility of the committee’s
future age-friendly charrettes.
Plans are also underway to conduct a charrette with
relevant stakeholders to address age-friendly issues in the renovation of the
Powell Street Station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco, CA.
The charrette will be held during the meetings of the 2017 International
Association for Gerontology and Geriatrics conference, to be held in downtown
San Francisco near the Powell Street Station. AGHE’s Global Aging Committee
will work with the Age-Friendly Design Committee to involve international
conference attendees in this charrette.
Ankrom Moisan’s designers are excited to apply some of
this shared learning to our designs for aging adults, and honored to have been
a part of this forward-thinking collaboration.
 He, W., Goodkind, D., & Kowal, P. (2016). An aging world: 2015. U.S. Census
Bureau. Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p95-16-1.pdf.
 World Health Organization (2007). Global Age-friendly Cities: A guide.
Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf
 World Health Organization (2014). Age-friendly world. Retrieved from: https://extranet.who.int/agefriendlyworld/