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Environmental Gerontology and Visual Comfort in Elder Care Facilities

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Environmental gerontology is a considered field with input from different disciplines including occupational and physical therapists, human service professionals, nursing or other medical professionals, and architects and other environmental designers (Stichler, 2013). The environmental gerontology contributions appeared through theoretical background and research findings in social and behavioral gerontology and fields like geriatrics, geropsychiatry and nursing sciences ( Wahl & Weisman, 2003).Consequently, environmental gerontology developed more to include environmental proactivity that assumes elderly can change and adapt any environment other than housing to their abilities and needs (Lawton M. P., 1989a). Moreover, the application of environmental gerontology field extended from housing design at micro level to communities and cities at macro level ( Wahl & Weisman, 2003). The levels of application are explained by Bronfenbrenner U. (1999) as following:

  • The micro level as personal housing and institution modifications (the interpersonal interactions within the immediate environment)
  • The mesosystem as in neighborhood, public space (two or more microsystems directly affecting the developing individual)
  • The exosystem (linkages between subsystems that indirectly influence the individual), and
  • To macro level for building age friendly communities urban and rural environments, regions and landscapes including evidence based housing and elderly institutions (values, norms, and legislation of a given society).

Qualitative research on environmental gerontology discussed experiences of space for elderly from physical and social context and the identity and attachment to space point of views (Sánchez-González, 2014). Then studies evolved to widely analyzing environmental dimensions that affect elderly including environmental attributes and environmental functions. Environmental attributes that affect elderly includes comfort, privacy, accessibility, guidance, control, security and dignity while environmental functions for the interaction with elderly divided into:

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  • Maintenance: cognitive– affective feelings in later life affecting the continuity and predictability of built environments as in private home environments and planned environments.
  • Stimulation: concerns with the departure of usual environment and the appearance of new social or leisure areas that affect the behavior.
  • Support: concern with the environment (home or planned) role in balancing a reduction or loss in abilities, which reflected in creating accessible and barrier free environments (Kahana, et al., 2003; Kurniawati, 2012).

In addition, a research by Taneli, Y., & Kovach, C. R. (2015) discussed quantitative methods of space including environmental variables such as crowding and its psychological effect, illumination importance to circadian rhythm, treatment of agitation, lack of daytime alertness, and sleep problems of individuals with dementia and enhance safety, mobility and visual comfort and acoustic comfort through measuring sound intensity. The research concluded that these measures can provide a holistic assessment that can affect the influence of decision-making.


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