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The Institute on Aging and Environment

Director:  Gerald Weisman, Professor of Architecture

The Institute on Aging & Environment was established in 1990. Funded by the Helen Bader Foundation, the Institute promotes research, scholarship, and service focusing on environments for older persons, particularly those suffering from cognitive impairments.  The mission of the Institute on Aging & Environment is the enhancement of the quality of life of older persons in our society through improvement of and innovation in independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care, and adult day care environments. 

Among the most successful and influential Institute activities has been direct programming and design assistance to over one hundred care providing organizations and architects engaged in planning environments for people with dementia.  These consultations have been primarily with care providers and architects in North America. but have also included regulatory agencies and national organizations.  Assistance has been provided on both a fee-for-service basis and at no cost to selected organizations (with support from the Faye McBeath, Robert Wood Johnson, and Helen Bader Foundations).  The Institute on Aging & Environment views consultation activities as a critically important mechanism for the dissemination of research and the enhancement of the quality of environments for older persons.

Current and Recent Research

Aging in Community
Investigator: Gerald Weisman
Graduate Student Researchers: Mark Proffitt, Emi Kiyoto
Funding Sources: Faye McBeath Fdn, Helen Bader Fdn, Milwaukee Fdn., United Way of Greater Milw., Donors Forum, County and City Aging organizations, UWM

Working to increase and improve housing for aging in the City of Milwaukee. For more information: A lexicon for the planning and design of dementia care environments
Investigator: Gerald Weisman Consultants: Margaret Calkins,Ph.D. and Kimberly van Heitsma, Ph.d.
Graduate Student Researchers: Emi Kiyota, James Railey
Funding Sources: Helen Bader Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund, Hulde B. and Maurice L. Rothschild Fdn.

Active Living by Design
nvestigators: Uriel Cohen and Gerald Weisman
Graduate Student Researchers: Stacey Grant, Newton DeSouza
Funding Sources: UW-Oshkosh, UWM, Milwaukee County Department on Aging, Robert Wood Johnson

Current and recent projects related to this topic include studies on:
Multi and inter -generational programs; University-linked communities; Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs)

Developing a Better Dementia Care Center
nvestigator:  Gerald Weisman
Associate Researcher: Andrew Alden
Funding Sources: Outagamie County, Wisconsin

Over a four year period, a study was done of the existing Outagamie Health Center, researchers acted as consultants on creation of a new center ─ Brewster Village ─ and both a construction phase and post-occupancy study of the new facility was conducted. A full report of this research will be available shortly.

Alaska Nursing Home Study
nvestigator: Uriel Cohen
Graduate Student and Associate Researchers: Ruth Cohen, Susana Alves
Funding Sources: State of Alaska

Extensive case studies of Alaska's Pioneer Homes as well as remote Native Alaskan nursing homes was undertaken. This was followed by consultation and training sessions with care givers on methods of improving the quality of life at these institutions by consideration of the social and cultural impact of the physical environments on the residents.

National Alzheimer's Design Assistance Project
nvestigators: Uriel Cohen and Gerald Weisman
Graduate Student Researchers: Andrew Alden and Lyn Geboy<
Funding Sources: Alzheimers Association, Helen Bader Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The National Alzheimer's Design Assistance Project was conducted by the Institute on Aging & Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a major initiative to advance the state of the art of designing environments for people with dementia. The primary goals of the project were to increase the public's awareness and appreciation of the therapeutic potential of the designed environment; to encourage innovation in planning, programming, and design of new environments on the continuum of care; and to make positive impact on national policy, regulation, and emerging trends in care environments through implementation of exemplary projects.  These goals were met primarily by informing, assisting and actively engaging care providers, architects, and other professionals in planning and design of Special Care Environments for persons with dementia.

The first phase of the project consisted of a two-day National Alzheimer's Design Assistance Workshop held in Charleston, SC. On April 18-19, 1999.  One hundred forty-five care providing organizations and design professionals attended the workshop.  In the second phase, eleven organizations were selected and awarded a series of in-depth programming and design consultations to be conducted in 1999-2000. A number of these facilities have been constructed or renovated.

Designing a Better Day (see publications series)
nvestigators: Keith Diaz Moore, Gerald Weisman
Graduate Student Researchers: Andrew Alden, Gowri Betrabet, John Czarnecki, Jennifer Kingsbury.
Funding Source: Helen Bader Foundation

Primarily driven by the need to provide more therapeutic, efficient and responsive models of community-based care, adult and dementia day care is growing at a phenomenal rate. This two-year project produced guidelines for community-based organizations and architects to create places that enhance the daily lives of adult day care participants.

Towards a Language of Assisted Living  (see publications series)
nvestigator: Keith Diaz Moore
Graduate Student Researchers: Jennifer Kingsbury, Leona Knobloch.
Funding Sources: American Institute of Architects and the American Hospital Association

This research project explored and developed techniques in the art of architectural benchmarking of assisted living facilities for older persons by undertaking ten case studies that are reflective of the range and diversity of architectural manifestations present in the assisted living industry. The study provides an exploratory investigation of patterns emerging in the field that are useful for informing architectural design and planning practices,

Therapeutic Use of Cultural Resources in Environments for People with Alzheimer's Disease
Investigators: Uriel Cohen, Kristen Day [Ph.D., School of Social Ecology, UC-Irvine]
Funding Sources: Archstone Foundation; the University of California - Irvine; and the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

Cultural phenomena may be a powerful therapeutic resource in caring for people with early to mid-stage Alzheimer's disease, especially those in institutional settings.  Cultural resources are currently underutilized in environments for people with AD.  No method currently exists for identifying and "translating" culture into productive and meaningful environmental expressions.

This project seeks to improve the well being of older adults through better use of cultural resources in designing facilities for people with Alzheimer's disease.  A workbook for care providers and designers that instructs them in the incorporation of cultural resources in environments for people with AD was produced. Drawing on interviews and observations in various cultural communities, the workbook presents guidelines for philosophies of care, activities, and spatial organization of settings that respond to life style and heritage in a sensitive, creative, and therapeutic fashion. 

The Influence of the Eden Alternative on the Quality of Life of Residents Living in Long Term Care Environments (see publication series)
Investigators: Uriel Cohen, Susana Alves
Funding Sources: Extendicare Foundation

This research project addresses the influence of the Eden Alternative philosophy on the health and performance of residents in long term environments.  Dr. William Thomas developed the Eden Alternative in 1994.  Its main goal is to transform the culture of the environment of long term care settings by addressing three of their main problems - loneliness, helplessness and boredom.  These problems would be addressed by the use of three elements - pets, plants, and children. 

The research report contains (1) a systematic and comprehensive review of the relevant research related to the influence of plants on people's health and behavior, especially elderly people living in long term care settings: (2) case studies - observation of "edenized" facilities and interviews with their workers and users - to gain a better understanding of the impact of the Eden Alternative.


University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

last updated on May 03, 2007