Environments For Aging 2011 conference is presented by Vendome Group, HEALTHCARE DESIGN and Long-Term Living magazines, The Center for Health Design, and in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects--Design for Aging, the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), and ASID. Given all the associations involved, it is fairly simple to pinpoint where exactly the various user groups intersect: the design of senior living environments.

In an engaging, informative, and through-provoking opening keynote, Judah L. Ronch, PhD, Professor of Practice, Interim Dean, Erickson School, Univeristy of Maryland Baltimore County, engaged the topic of culture change from a wide variety of fronts. Connecting the dots between the culture change movement, the needs of the senior living population, and the design community, Ronch examined the basic question of how to properly design senior living environments via a series of other questions to be asked, couched on five main touchstones that resonated throughout his talk. Those touchstones?

1. The need for intimacy in the environment
2. The role that environment can play
3. The fact that an organization’s culture and the environment beget each other
4. That proper alignment between culture and environment promotes the intimate relationships
5. Autonomy and choice are key

That final point resonated strongly with me, as I identified with that same need in the acute-care environments that we generally encounter in HEALTHCARE DESIGN. Just as facility culture and design in long-term care are inspired and influenced by our view of the aging process, so does our view of the healing process inspire and influence the design and culture of our nation’s hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities; they just happen to be slightly different concerns.

Still, there is much to be learned from the processes, questions, and concerns of the senior-living design community, as at the end of the day, the welfare of the patients (or residents, as the case may be) is—or should be—the primary concern. The problem is that there are often hundreds of other concerns vying for attention. Navigating that minefield is the common mission of healthcare designers of any walk; the HEALTHCARE DESIGN audience could learn a lot from the Environments For Aging crowd, and vice-versa.

Watch this space, as well as the blogs and newsfeeds over at Long-Term Living (www.longtermlivingmagazine.com) over the next few days for more of these insights. And if you’re so inclined, check the Twitter hashtag #EFA11 for even more content. Judging from the opening salvo, there is going to be a lot of information to share.