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A thought-provoking opening

March 21, 2011
by Todd Hutlock
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In an engaging, informative, and through-provoking opening keynote, Judah L. Ronch, PhD, Professor of Practice, Interim Dean, Erickson School, University 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:

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 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 resident 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.

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Comments

While Dr. Ronch's opening talk may have come off as too academic for some, I thought it was one of the best plenary sessions I have ever attended, rich with thought-provoking and challenging ideas. But you really needed to be paying close attention the entire time to appreciate that!

Great overview. One of the points that stuck with me was to design for seniors as if we were designing for ourselves. Putting ourselves in the residents' shoes may allow us to come to greater solutions.

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