Wherein I rant about a public housing waste of money and an insensitivity to the elderly

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Today I went to check up on a couple of people from here who have moved into a beautiful brand new multi million tax dollar built care residence. I was shocked by a series of unbelievable design decisions that are clearly mistakes, that will cost a good deal more dollars to fix, if they get fixed at all. I am wondering who didn't think through the design implications for these elderly people?

It's bad enough that none of the rooms had phones hooked up before they were moved in, and for people limited in mobility and access to mobile phones, they have really been cut off from their families. They are also getting bored because the cable TV hasn't yet been hooked up. Now ok, either of these things I can justify as some early new building growing pains sort of things.

But the design fails or elder insensitivity I just shook my head at?

- Extra high ceilings and carpet less floors so now they can't hear each other when they sit and play games because their voices echo and bounce around the room so badly.

- Closets with high placed bars in them that very few can reach to hang their clothing on.

- Electronic thermostats in each room that NO ONE can figure out how to work and there are no instructions for them and even the staff can't adjust them.

- Big metal blinds on each room window that are so heavy that the elderly can't pull them up or let them down so they peek out between the slats to see outside.

- Perhaps the biggest design flaw was the meal time. In the previous place their meals were set before them at the table they sat at, awaiting their lunch. Now it's cafeteria style, and all the aged people have to get up and line up and take a tray with their hot food and drinks back to their tables and sit down to eat.
I happened to pass by one of the dinning areas as I was leaving the place and I couldn't believe it. The line threaded around the side of the room, and all but two were pushing walkers or in wheelchairs they pushed themselves, or even with crutches. How do you hold a tray in a wheelchair or holding a walker? How do you get your hot water or coffee back to the table without dumping it on yourself?

It was as if the designer had never been around anyone over 60 before.

The disappointment is that it is such a beautiful building and a great place to spend a few years, except that it seems no one was thinking. That is really frustrating. I know these people have been waiting a long time for this new place to live in because the old place was very, well, old. But at least it fit who they are, and didn't mock their limited abilities.

Ok that's enough for now. Let's see what they do to fix this.


  1. I hope you sent this letter to the appropriate persons who really need to read this.


  2. I don't like to hear about stuff like this. I really, REALLY love older people -- they've got a big piece of my heart. (Just today we were at MCC and were helped by an older man who reminded me so much of my grandpa Marc told me he was surprised I didn't start crying!) I've been thinking if it was possible I would love to do counselling with seniors -- help them make sense of and come to some resolutions/peace with their pasts. I think it would be a perfect fit -- not sure if it exists anywhere, but I would love to do it.

    Yes, send your letter to where it will be heard!!

  3. I am in conversation with people who know these things and a letter will follow, if it helps.

    I love the idea of counselling with seniors. I think that is an unreached people group, and while we may have to adjust our language to give them words that don't frighten them away, I think that is a good exercise.

    And hey, word on the street is that more and more people will be older and older as the boomers move their bulge through the system.



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