Life is not static. It is a combination of action and experiment, at each phase, without which it loses its dynamic nature. Much of this action comes from the inner being-sometimes in the form of motivation and at other times in the form of introspection. But a lot of experiment is also attributed to the environment one stays in. Environment does not merely refer to the surroundings, but, it entails within itself a combination of atmosphere, situation and milieu. A comfortable physical setting supported by a restful social setting can work wonders for one’s health and psyche- especially when the concerns are high at an old age. Thereby the creation of a feasible, functional and dependable physical environment assumes immense significance.
Every piece of architecture these days is built keeping in mind the stature of a normal, healthy and active human being. What is conveniently forgotten is the fact that each man/woman has to age with time. And with age come growth and such developments which may hamper their ability to use places of public convenience. Hence the accessibility, reachability, usability and safety of buildings and other public places should be the prime concern, while designing and preparing a blueprint of their structure. Apart from these factors, orientation and workability of the structures too are points that must be considered. And all this can happen when concern for the elderly is generated at the stage of conceptualization or ideation itself. A physical environment that has been sensitively designed, keeping in view the difficulties of sorts that may arise, would definitely have a favorable impact on the health of the old. Their feelings of isolation may get transformed into independence, thereby nourishing their health and providing them with contentment and internal satisfaction. However, all this is easier said than done. At www.oldagesolutions.org we have compiled a list of features that have to be borne in mind while planning the designs of a structured environment, so as to make it more relevant and more considerate for the aged. These features, which more or less are to be followed as principles consist of the following-
The entry and exit of each structure should not only be easily accessible but should also be clearly visible from the road. Provision of ramps, staircases and elevators enhances the level of comfort.
Ideally, ramps with a gradient of 1:12 and a length and width of 6 meters and 120cms respectively should be provided with handrails to help the old and the disabled in carrying walkers or in being carried in wheelchairs.
Wide and paved passages and corridors prove to be of immense help to the elderly who might have asthmatic or other respiratory problems.
The layout of the building should be extremely friendly. Appropriate lighting, ventilation, provision of proper toilets and clean surroundings would construct an environment that is healthy, hygenic and safe.
Usage of sound absorbing materials like curtains, mattresses, carpets, cloth upholstery, tapestries etc. would build up an apt acoustic environment.
It is solely by means of a snug and secure environment that the elderly would find the calm, harmony, tranquility and respite mixed with content and relaxation that they might have felt deprived of in all these years.
A good environment indeed can play a strong role in determining the shape that the life of the aged shall take.