An interesting confluence of events this month brings to mind the history of our company’s varied and sundry healthcare design publications and conferences. The whole shebang started with regular editorial coverage of long-term care design in regular issues of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management magazine (now known as Long-Term Living) in 1991. In a nutshell we went from that to an annual long-term care design showcase issue in 1997 (still published today as DESIGN/Environments for Aging), to an annual HEALTHCARE DESIGN showcase in 2001, to an annual conference of the same name in 2003, to the monthly publication you now hold in your hands. And through it all there was one truism:

Long-term care design and acute care design occupy two different worlds.

Although very often the very same design firms offered specialties in both areas, it was generally accepted that the characteristics of the two fields differed—thus, when comparing long-term care (LTC) with acute care (AC) design, you had: homelike (LTC)/hospitality (AC); high-touch (LTC)/high-tech (AC); small-to-medium projects (LTC)/big-to-huge projects (AC). Designers in both camps tended to specialize, so far as I could tell, and viewed each other across a bit of a conceptual gulf.

Cut to the present: March 2008. This month finds us publishing, in quick succession, our 12th issue of DESIGN, the March issue of the newly titled Long-Term Living, the March issue of HEALTHCARE DESIGN, and a supplement to HEALTHCARE DESIGN called The Contractor’s View. And capping everything is Vendome Group’s second annual Environments for Aging conference, this year in Tucson, Arizona, on March 17-19.

Here’s where things are starting to get interesting. “Environments for Aging” is about as clear a title as you can get. It’s all about designed supportive and healthy environments for our aging population in which to live in and receive healthcare. The LTC side is seeing a market that’s swinging rapidly away from facility-based care toward more active and independent senior environments. The facilities that don’t wish to move in that direction are becoming more clinically expert—mini-hospitals, to some extent—but within environments reflecting the new hospitality values of AC. The AC side has noted the aging of its clientele and, in response, is fashioning senior-friendly caring environments both on the inpatient and outpatient sides.

In short, there’s some convergence going on.

Symbolic of this is the new role our longtime HEALTHCARE DESIGN partner, The Center for Health Design, has assumed in beginning to work on the long-term care side of the street. For the first time, the 2008 edition of DESIGN features The Center as a partner, and there’s an article inside discussing how The Center’s evidence-based design principles line up with those propounded by our original (and continuing) DESIGN partner, the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE), all these years.

And everyone is showing up in Tucson to talk about it.

All of which is to say that there is some very exciting cross-fertilization and mutual support going on between formerly disparate design camps. And what is motivating it is our aging society. I can’t say “It’s about time” for a convergence—there’s been too much creativity on both sides for me to complain. But I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the new synthesis has to offer. My guess is the results are barely imaginable today. HD


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