In this second of a two-part preview of the session, “Creating Aging-Friendly Green Communities,” to be held at 3:15 p.m. on Monday, April 30, 2012, at the annual Environments for Aging (EFA) Conference, Jane Rohde, AIA, FIIDA, ACHA, AAHID, principal, JSR Associates Inc., and Elizabeth (Betsy) Brawley, AAHID, IIDA, CID, principal, Design Concepts Unlimited, discuss some of the highlights of their presentation with HEALTHCARE DESIGN Associate Editor Shandi Matambanadzo.

Do you have some examples of some facilities that are using the Senior Living Sustainability Guide and  can you briefly explain some of the essential factors in creating a sustainable aging-friendly community?

Jane Rohde: There is a hospital in Laport that is using the guide to move their long-term care residents out the hospital and into a household setting. We also have been using the guide for a project that we have been working on in China. There are affordable examples as well as some more contemporary ones, and a couple of example from California that include residents in the process. This is something we are going to talk about as well in the presentation. I love that the committee of 25 members is made up mostly of 70+ year olds!

Elizabeth (Betsy) Brawley: We have great examples of how some of the residents have jumped in to participate before they even had the guide. It is really important to involve them in the educational process.  Because, for example, I know one of the first groups that I worked with we could not figure out why all of the corridors were dark at night. There were no lights but finally we figured it out. We were alerted that the residents were going around and unscrewing the light bulbs!

Rohde: They were trying to save money.

Brawley: It’s that and they were really trying to cut down on some of the things however lighting was one of the things we really did not want to cut down on. We need to have good lighting regardless to eliminate falls as much as possible but it taught us something that we had not even thought about. We really needed to give out good information which we were doing, but how it was being interpreted was not the way that we thought it was going to be and it was creating some results that we really did not want. Getting the residents involved is really the heart of whether it will be successful or not.

Rohde: A lot of times recycling initiatives, operational initiatives that are sustainable are often driven by residents. It can be anything from organic food choices to recycling to energy, to water usage—you name it. The staffs also have creative ideas. It really is a grassroots effort especially in existing facilities. New facilities are a little different—planning and development, site selection and all the other things along with sustainability. We do a lot assessments for Green Globes for VA hospitals and some of the things they do both on the long term care and acute care side is phenomenal. People in the VA really have some good ideas and have worked really hard to address sustainable issues on sites.


What are some of the other things that you will be touching on in the presentation at EFA12?

Rohde: Culture change and resident-centered care mirrors a lot of what we are seeing on the sustainability side in terms of innovation. In my opinion, culture change and shifting from a hierarchal institutional model into a culture change model is a sustainable step. It gives you more flexibility, it gives you better resident outcomes, it allows for some of the sustainable initiatives that you might want to put in like recycling and composting to be more on a localized level. A non-hierarchal operational model embraces what the physical environment can do from a sustainable perspective.

Brawley:  Many people have become very interested, not just in gardening but also in raising some of their own vegetables. One of the CCRCs buys 80% of their fresh food that’s served in that facility from local farmers. Now that’s very different from anything that has gone on before.  Now that isn’t part of the real design for the building but it is part of sustainability.  The residents are taking a lot more ownership as they understand what this is and they are very interested in being involved. They are really contributing a lot, if only in pressure, to the facilities to make some of these changes.

Rohde: They are selecting their own food and know what type of food they can eat instead of a preplanned meal that comes pureed.

Brawley: Sometimes we do not necessarily think of that as being part of the design but if it is not considered part of the design then the allocation of space is never there. This is where residents live and sometimes we are responsible for transforming their lives in ways that they cannot anticipate and possibly may not want. By not having things that encourage people to be outside, especially when they need the sunlight, they will not gravitate there without a reason and I think gardens can be some of the strongest reasons for doing that. Having gardens that are meaningful and produce something, contribute back into what the residents are doing,  and gives them meaningful work as well as the products that are produced from the work means a lot.