Small home improvements could help an aging Iowan population stay home longer instead of going to nursing homes.
Iowa State University (ISU) students, in conjunction with AARP Iowa and the City of Charles City, presented their home modification plans to their clients and the community at the Charles City Senior Center on Tuesday. The plans were made to help aging adults stay in their homes longer and make some simple changes.
The plans were part of the project “Revitalizing Small Communities for an Aging Population in Iowa: Making Home Modifications More Accessible,” initiated by ISU Assistant Professor of Interior Design Daejin Kim.
Kim focused on researching the concept of “aging in place,” which allows seniors to live safely in their homes.
According to a press release, aging in place has significant positive implications for older people, as it allows them to stay in their homes and slow the decline of populations in rural communities. Kim and the student’s project focused specifically on rural communities, due to little research being done.
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The project builds on work Kim did for two years alongside UIS Associate Professor of Architecture Cameron Campbell, Associate Professor of Community and Regional Planning Biswa Das and former Assistant Professor of Architecture of ISU Sungduck Lee’s landscape. The group developed a home assessment tool to be part of a home modification strategy and manual for aging in place.
Kim’s design students went to work with a real client in Charles City and presented the best plans last week. AARP Iowa funded the home modification project and helped find seniors to work with.
“I think this is a major opportunity for students because the year before we had to create a client,” Kim said. “We just imagined our client and his information. This year we have a very specific problem. We can achieve a more practical design strategy to solve many kinds of problems. »
The ISU students presented their poster presentations, which included information about house layouts and the problems they needed to solve, to a group of more than 30 people. The students discussed their client’s physical issues and simple modifications that can be made to help them, such as adding a handrail at a key point in their home. The students had been working on the project for four weeks, according to Kim.
“We were also given our floor plan and we evaluated the floor plan and sort of decided what we could change in it,” sophomore Brooklyn Wissbaum said. “What can we move in this house without completely changing the whole house? Because a big thing that we have kept is the moved attachment, which is your familiarity with the space.
Sophomore Krista Smith and Wissbaum worked with Noriene North’s home and space. The solutions the two had for North were storage space and easier access with a walker. Smith and Wissbaum kept North’s hobbies, such as piano playing and crafts, in mind.
North said she enjoyed watching the home modifications featured, especially the idea of knocking down a wall in her home for better accessibility. “They work great for seniors and for my home,” North said.
Sophomore Makayla Bristol, who worked on a home modification plan for an older man, said her biggest lesson from being part of the project was understanding future design changes as the people age. Sophomore Sydnee Hannegrefs, who has worked with Bristol, said it was exciting to see a client see their final product.
“It’s really gratifying to see the (customer’s) feedback and how big the little things can be, even if we don’t think they are, they definitely are,” Hannegrefs said.
AARP Associate State Director and Community Outreach Connie Eastman said the main focus of the plans is to highlight some of the low-cost solutions for community members. She added that she hopes those present at the event can go home and install simple solutions for their lives.
“The overall plan in our mind — and I know it’s also for the ISU — we wanted to model that for other small, rural communities,” Eastman said. “We want people to know that you can keep people home if you just make a few changes.”
Abby covers education and entertainment for the Globe Gazette. Follow her on Twitter at @MkayAbby. Email her at [email protected]