Transgenerational Products: A Common Sense Solution

older potato peeler

My older peelers gave our aging parents trouble when they tried to hold it.

Transgenerational design is a manufacturing concept for products that are useful for people of all ages and the design also ensures that older individuals will be able to use a product even as they age and their circumstances change.

Some years ago when my husband’s mother was recovering from a stroke, she made it clear to everyone that she wanted to return to her home. My husband and I were newcomers to the aging parent support scene, so when the social worker and physicians at the hospital suggested that we give Mother a personal safety device that she could wear around her neck, we readily agreed.

When my mother-in-law recovered enough to go home, we signed a contract with a company that worked with the local hospital, and we showed her how to wear the device. She accepted it and seemed to wear it most of the time, but sometimes we noticed that she was not wearing it, especially when we dropped in unexpectedly. Over the next few months, Mother wore it less and less, commenting that she did not need it, but when we sat down to have a conversation about it, she pointed out that it was ugly. “Why can’t it look like a piece of jewelry,” she wondered. “Then I’d be happy to wear it all the time.”

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Jane Gross Lecture on Caregiving and Her Family

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.17.20 PMLast fall Jane Gross, journalist and author of A Bittersweet Season, spoke about her experiences supporting and caring for her elderly mother. The presentation at Brethren Village, a retirement community in Lancaster, PA, shares observations, experiences, things she wishes she had done, and much more.

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Will On-Demand Services Change the Way We Age?

photo credit: IMG_1642 via photopin (license)

photo credit: IMG_1642 via photopin (license)

A great article in the December 14, 2015 Washington Post, The On-Demand Economy: Changing the Way We Live As We Age, explains how many new online services such as food delivery, rides on demand. and home services are making life much easier for elders who want to remain independent as long as possible. Most of these connect with easy-to-use smart phone apps.

The article authors, Luke Yoquinto and Joseph Coughlin, are affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, a group that connects new ideas with technology and aims to improve the health and quality of people’s lives, especially as they age.

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Woodland Park Green House Homes in the Snow

Woodland Park in the Snow

Woodland Park in the Snow

Lots of people are working all over the place at the Green House Homes at Woodland Park in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) the staff is in training, the furniture is arranged, and everywhere people are making last-minute tweaks.

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the kitchens?

One of the homes will be ready for residents in two weeks. VMRC is about to add a new community to its vibrant and caring culture. Grand opening ceremonies are January 5th and 6th at VMRC.

I will be blogging from the events on Saturday and Sunday.

It snowed last week in the Shenandoah Valley, and I took this picture of one of the new homes at Woodland Park.

BTW:  These homes have mountain views!

Grab Bars and Railings, Not Just for Elders: My Cataract

Who knew that when we installed all sorts of grab bars and railings in our house — intended to help our elder parents — they would be useful to me years before retirement?

From the NIH ADAM Encyclopedia

I am using these accommodations all the time just now because I have a cataract, and those relative small but important changes in our house are coming in handy.

My cataract is not caused by aging. In the spring of 2012, about seven months ago, a detached retina required immediate surgery. I wrote about my experiences to provide clear and objective reports about the process of retinal surgery and my recovery.

My surgeon performed a vitrectomy, successfully correcting the problem and maintaining my vision, but he warned me ahead of time that a side-effect of the surgery is the development of a cataract. I say side-effect rather than complication because almost everyone who gets this type of surgery develops a cataract. Sure enough, about three months after my surgery I began to develop one.

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Empowering Through Design: What a Health-Wellness Concept!

We’ve all had experiences trying to accomplish a task that is way too hard — and one reason it’s so difficult is because the environment is not designed to help a person function and work efficiently. Many of us have watched our aging parents grow frustrated, especially in medical settings, where equipment and furniture is overly complex and where even simple things, like light switches, sometimes look like they belong in the complex control panel of an airplane. And it’s not just elders, but patients in general. In the biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple Computer’s Steve Job, then seriously ill and hospitalized, noted that hospital equipment needed dramatic redesigning.

Click on this thumbnail to see a larger picture of the rolling hospital tray mentioned in the Wired article.

To learn more check out Empowering Patients Through Design, a short article at Wired Science reporting on a speech at the Wired Health Conference. The October 15, 2012 article describes Michael Graves’ presentation, explaining how he became a hospital patient and then discovered that he could no longer function efficiently — even in a rehabilitation setting. The medical rooms, equipment, and other materials were poorly designed for people with disabilities.

Graves, a renown architect, found a new calling, combining his professional knowledge with his experience as a patient and becoming a proponent of human centered design. This type of architecture aims to make health care environments, as well as other settings, more comfortable and user-friendly. “I decided that since I was a designer and architect and a patient, I have the credentials to do this,” Graves said at the conference.

In health care human centered design focuses on every part of the patient’s care experience from hospital and patient rooms to floors, light switches, and even signs. Graves and his group have designed hospital furniture that takes the specific needs of patients into consideration.

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