Unconventional wisdom: AAHSA's Idea House unveiled at this year's convention

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Unconventional wisdom: AAHSA's Idea House unveiled at this year's convention
Unconventional wisdom: AAHSA's Idea House unveiled at this year's convention
Each year, as the days get colder and the nights get longer, people across the country hunker down and stay put, safe and snug inside their homes.

Not long-term care providers.

This month, thousands of leaders will venture to Chicago to the annual conference of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. There, they will see a home that offers an inkling of what the future of long-term care will look like.

Welcome home

This is the first year for the AAHSA Idea House. Its unveiling at the annual conference represents the culmination of months of hard work, clever planning, intricate design and coordinated construction.

Part exhibit, part think tank, the AAHSA Idea House is a 2,600-square- foot platform for demonstrating the many ways technology and design can be integrated into any level of senior living. Technology vendors from around the country will display their wares in a contextual environment, properly demonstrating how the devices would function in a true care setting.

And though it takes the form of a private residence, many of the gadgets and gizmos inside the house can be transferred easily to nursing homes, assisted living or CCRC settings.

Useful design

The one-story house contains, among other things, a modified bathroom featuring some of the latest developments for senior living.

“That shower has a trench drain in it that's not even on the market yet,” says Eric Krull, architect and associate with Atlanta-based architecture and design firm THW Design.

The trench drain may seem like a small thing, but Krull sees a big future for it in nursing homes and CCRCs. Situated at the lip of the shower, the new drain allows wheelchairs to roll right over it, eliminating a traditional raised barrier. It also helps out in other ways.

“Let's say [a resident] drops the washcloth, which happens in nursing homes,” he muses. “It covers that little drain and could cause a flood. The only way that we have to combat that today is to put two drains in the bathroom.”

Over in the kitchen, one company has found an intriguing way to bring out-of-reach cabinets down a notch. At the touch of a button, cabinets are lowered to a height appropriate for a wheelchair-bound resident, or perhaps a shorter caregiver.

“There are a lot of little things that are built into the structure of the kitchen as well,” says Kyle Ray, senior designer with THW. For example, the countertops have been lowered to 2-feet-10-inches for wheelchair accessibility.

Meanwhile, sensors around the house can detect a variety of different things, from moisture on the floor, to who's at the door, to whether the stove has been on too long.

The company Cyberdyne, for example, showcases its new “Hybrid Assistive Limb,” of HAL for short. HAL is a wearable robotic suit that its designers say may help stroke victims walk, or give caregivers extra strength to help move patients.


Lessons Learned:

1 - Technology and design need not be mutually exclusive; in fact, they form a powerful partnership

2 - Something as simple as a trench-style drain could help prevent flood damage caused by a dropped washcloth

3 - Wireless technology is not only useful; it can be easy to install in an existing facility