I became interested in elder care and elder issues when I began looking into volunteering with Zen Hospice. I have quickly discovered that volunteering, akin to vying for jobs and housing, is competitive in San Francisco. After several days of phone tag, the director of volunteering at Zen Hospice informed me that they have an intensive application process and take only 20% of applicants. My jaw dropped. After resettling my jaw, I said, "Well, that is great that you can be selective for volunteers!" Their next opening isn't for another year so, in the meantime, I have begun a three-part training at the SF SPCA to be able to volunteer with their shelter cats and dogs. (This series includes a CAT 101 course, for real!)
In 2012 alone, 2.4 million United States individuals over the age of 65 were treated in Emergency Departments. In the decade ending in 2012, there were 201,000 deaths due to falls for individuals over 65. These disturbing data underscore what a significant issue falls are. At the same time, for elder adults, quality of life is greatly lessened when scope of movement and decisions are limited.
To navigate this dialectic, elder home communities and retirement homes are seeking architects to design housing that allows for freedom of movement and safety. This includes bright colored cloth and the beginning and end of stairwells and space for walkers. Everyone is faced with a pull for freedom and safety in different contexts: for example, freedom for private phone conversations was compromised for reasons of national safety. But it is important, in a concrete way, to identify solutions that allow for individual's freedom and preserves safety.