LeadingAge: Advocating For Seniors

LeadingAge: Advocating For Seniors

By Darius Helm

 

Once a year, LeadingAge hosts an annual meeting and expo. This year, it was held in Dallas, October 27 to 30, with over 7,000 in attendance, including 1,900 exhibitors. The meeting includes over 200 education sessions, keynote and leadership speeches, and the LeadingAge Idea House, a real life setting where several exhibitors come together to generate innovative living spaces for seniors.

Attendees to the expo include A&D firms, senior community developers and administrators, engineering specialists, financial consultants and marketing people, among others. For the second year in a row, the expo also included Ignite, a fast-paced event where speakers give five minute talks, covering a wide range of topics, guided by 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds.

The most prominent exhibit at the expo is the LeadingAge Idea House. In 2007, a partnership was launched between LeadingAge and THW Design. It started with modules, like bathrooms and kitchens, and by 2009 it was an entire house, furnished with product designed specifically for senior living, including flooring, bath fixtures, furniture, beds and a range of digital technologies. The house design is guided by the principles of aging in place, sustainable design, affordability, flexibility and technology in design.

This year’s Idea House prominently featured products from some of the leading floorcovering manufacturers. What’s unique about this year’s house, designed by THW’s Alejandro Giraldo, is that it offers both indoor and outdoor spaces in five unique unit settings: rehab recovery, memory care, skilled care, therapy room and memory garden. Flooring featured in the Idea House included carpet by Interface, Shaw Contract and Patcraft, as well as resilient flooring by Shaw Commercial Hard Surfaces and Patcraft. 

Interface also showcased its Enlighted Fall Alert system, which uses sensors in the carpet and mounted on the ceiling to detect irregular movement that could signal a fall or other dangerous occurrence, and automatically calls a nurse or caregiver to their aid. Another Interface senior living product is a carpet tile using Satech’s SmartCells patented technology, which has a dual stiffness structure that gives stability to those with balance problems but at the same time becomes suddenly softer under the impact of someone falling.

Flooring is one of the most important components of senior housing, relating to everything from injury prevention to wayfinding, and it has a dominant role in creating the atmosphere of the living space, which is particularly important with baby boomers and the new generation of seniors. A huge range of technical issues need to be addressed in making flooring for senior living. Other flooring companies exhibiting at the expo were Earthwerks, Mohawk, Signature and Tandus.

In addition to technical features like waterproof backings, slip resistance and cushioning, design itself plays a huge role. Deteriorating vision and the yellowing of the eyes, for instance, determine both color and pattern choices. And there’s a condition among those with severe dementia called visual cliffing, a depth perception problem related to issues like not being able to see the color purple. A pattern with too much contrast will stop residents in their tracks because they get the sense that there’s a drop in the floor. Also, many senior citizens, particularly those significantly debilitated, don’t lift their feet so much when they walk, and they will often twist and fall when they come to a stop. Angled and linear designs can also be challenging, since the wrong patterning can lead residents to veer off their course and head into furniture or walls.

One of the keynote speakers at the expo, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer, is the founder of Blue Zones, a firm dedicated to assembling the global best practices in longevity and well being. Buettner’s talk focused on communities from all around the world with the highest percentage of people 100 or older. Across the show floor, Blue Zones set up nine stations, each focusing on one secret to long life, and attendees meandering through the space from one station to the next may well have discovered the tenth secret: walking.

Another exhibitor at the expo was The Green House Project, which creates homes for ten to 12 residents that are designed to emulate the experience of living in a real home, in an attempt to offset some of the most painful consequences of aging: loneliness, helplessness and boredom. Also, an innovative staff model offers residents four times more contact than in traditional senior living residences and reduces staff turnover. The Green House model, which represents a significant movement away from the institutional model, offers specific finish criteria, including features like carpet in private rooms. There are currently about 150 Green Houses in 24 states, providing care to over 1,500 seniors.

Also at the expo was the Annual Awards ceremony, recognizing both individuals and organizations committed to enhancing the quality of life of the aging population. The Award of Honor went to Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Foundation, who was responsible for Massachusetts’ first mixed-income assisted living residence, a Green House in an urban, low-income neighborhood. Next year’s LeadingAge Annual Meeting will take place in Nashville.



THE MISSION: EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR SENIORS

LeadingAge, an association of over 6,000 not-for-profit organizations that advocate for the aging, has been around for over 50 years, and it has become one of the most influential voices in the U.S. for senior citizens. The group is also part of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (IAHSA), which works in 30 countries around the world.


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