The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

1996 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Designing Environments for Older People: Helping to Retain Independence

Melaine Glordano, BA, CPFT, RN Wednesday, November 6, 1996

In 1900 the 65 and older population numbered 3.1 million Americans (1 in 25 Americans). By 1994 the number of older Americans had increased to 33.2 million people (1 in 8 Americans). Gerontologist claim that the real "aging" explosion will take place when the baby boom generation reaches the age of 65 (2010 to 2030). By 2030 that nearly 70 million adults will be 65 years, this is double the size since 1990.

The reality is we are all aging and most of us will experience some type of disability in our lives that will prompt us to take a fresh look at our physical environments. By definition, accessible environments are those which enable a person to do what she or he needs or desires to do independently. However, many of today's environments are unknowingly full of potential booby traps for older adult.

Take a moment and consider how accessible your present care setting to someone who is confused, has poor eyesight, diminished hearing and/or limited range of motion. Sensory changes, associated with the normal aging process, can cause the older adults to perceive and respond to their environments in different ways: slower and deliberate walking, turning up the volume on the T. V. and radio, discontinue driving at night, adding "unusual spices to food", changes in personal hygiene or holding reading material farther from the eyes.

The RCP's can gain insight into the needs of the older person by simulating age-related sensory changes. For example, age-related changes in vision can be simulated by covering a pair of glasses with yellow cellophane and then coating the glasses with glue or Vaseline. While wearing these glasses the RCP will appreciate what challenges the older person experiences in there daily activities(dispensing medication, cooking, and reading and writing).

It is essential for that RCPs understand the affect that sensory deficits have on a person's ability to functional physically as well as socially. This lecture demonstrate simulation changes and clinical intervention that will enhance the functional ability of the older patient.

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