“Ageing in place”, that is what most seniors hope to do. But for many of them, this is currently not possible. Which conditions need to be met in terms of infrastructure and social aspects in order to allow people to age in their own everyday surroundings? This is what we wanted to find out, together with the platform AIPA (ageing in place Aalst).
Room for improvement
Most senior citizens are very attached to their own house, their neighbors, their neighborhood, and above all their independence. When they have to move, they face a big adjustment, often followed by sadness and loneliness. But there is another way of approaching assisted living. The AIPA project focuses on countering social isolation and ensuring affordable housing and care, paying special attention to socially disadvantaged populations.
The main objective of this project was to find out what an assisted living area could look like and how the city of Aalst could position itself as a leader in terms of social services. This research is meant to lead to a number of short-term and long-term solutions to further refine the concept of the ideal assisted living environment. Together with the city of Aalst, we chose a service design approach, allowing us to generate ideas and solutions in a cocreative setting. We organized workshops with residents, health care providers, city employees and entrepreneurs. By using different methods in each workshop, we stimulated the participants to generate more ideas. And by building onto the results of each previous session, the general direction was gradually outlined.
During the first two sessions on the setup of green areas, central advisory services and stimulating an active community feeling in the neighborhood, health care providers indicated that mobility was an issue in Aalst. We did an experiment with GPS trackers so as to map existing conflicts as well as the most efficient routes. This allowed us to conclude that the problem wasn’t so much in the routes and transport, but the heart of the issue was in finding a parking space.
For the next session, we took stock of the current facilities and their location. Several facilities were clustered and we looked at which facilities were missing in which areas, and where new facilities could be set up. In the last session, we continued building on this, in order to establish a definition of “an adaptive assisted living area”, a neighborhood that offers custom-made infrastructure, care and services, regardless of the (temporary) needs of the residents and the stage of life they are in.
Based on the results of this exercise, a number of ideas were selected and implemented as test projects: a pop-up meeting place, the care bicycle (taxi), a parking card for health care providers and a social representative to serve as contact person for social and care-related issues in a new housing development in Aalst.
Aalst, a town that cares
"In 2016 our work was awarded with a Henry Van De Velde Award in the Design Research category."