Outdoor Invitation Qualities of Assisted Living Facilities Located in Different Urban Forms

By Mehran Madani.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 11, 2015 $US5.00

Abstract: Aging is not in itself a disease. Aging is the gradual and progressive decay in physical and mental functions that begins in adulthood and makes older adults more vulnerable to disease and environmental effects by the end of life. Yet, Birren (1991) believes aging in society is a dynamic and adaptive phenomenon best understood as an outcome of ongoing interactions among complex factors such as environmental settings and older adults’ individual characteristics. In general, gerontologists have categorized people aged 65 and over into different cohorts in 10-year increments: persons aged 65-74 are called ‘old’, the 75-84 cohort is called ‘old old,’ and those 85 years and older are called the ‘very old’ (Hodge 2008). The physical and mental impairments of these cohorts differ in terms of limitation in mobility, agility, hearing, seeing, and speaking. Twenty nine percent of American older adults 65 and over suffer some form of physical disability, while older adults aged 80 and over are two times as likely to have one or more physical limitations as adults ages 65-74 (National Center for Health Statistics 2010). Contrary to public belief, the majority of older adults are neither disabled nor institutionalized (Center for Disease Control 2010). This population experiences a relatively normal and independent life style, and just 4-5 percent of them are institutionalized in facilities, such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities, ALFs (CDC 2010). The latest U.S. Census (2010) shows that now one in nine Americans is age 65 and older. The American older adult population grew 31.5% and exceeded 35 million between 2000 to 2010 (Census 2010). Also, life expectancy in the United States increased from 59.7 years in 1930 to 78.3 in 2010 (CDC 2010). According to the demographers, one of five Americans is expected to be 65 and older by 2035 (Census 2010). The fast-growing population of older adults beside some other prevailing trends, such as the change in the American family structure, the growing population of older adults moving to assisted living facilities (ALFs), and the increasing number of ALFs in suburban areas result in a demand for design professionals to expand their understanding about older adults’ geographical location and their relationships with their social and built environments (Rowles and Chaudhury 2005; Hodge 2008). Accordingly, the question is: may semi-independent older adults’ choices to live in ALFs in core urban areas be dramatically reduced in the near future due to these trends? And how it can impact their outdoor social activities? To address these issues, the approach was to compare ALF neighborhoods in suburban and core urban forms by assessing the invitation qualities to suggest what kind of urban form can offer a higher invitation quality for ALF residents to use the outdoor environment. This framework was applied for its potential benefit to future research evaluating the outdoor activities of ALF residents related to the neighborhood invitation quality and how different quality measures can generate more pedestrian activity, yield a higher social well-being, and provide a greater quality of life for ALF residents living in various urban forms. Therefore, 14 ALFs in the city of Spokane were selected in 2 comparison groups based on Washington State Department of Social and Health Services [DSHS] criteria and the research’s control variables, 7 in the core urban area located approximately within 3 miles from downtown Spokane, and 7 in the suburban area outside the area, approximately 3-8 miles from downtown Spokane.

Keywords: Social Interaction, Social Transaction, Urban Design, Socio-Spatial Geography, Socio-Cultural Aspects of the Built Environment, Urban Form

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.1-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 11, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 652.071KB)).

Mehran Madani

Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon