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HEALTHCARE GIANTS: Age-simulation technology aids design for the mobility impaired

As the 65+ population continues to rise, the AEC industry needs to better understand the stresses and anxieties those who are mobility impaired face when navigating spaces like medical facilities.

August 08, 2016 |

Wes Tafoya, an architectural intern with Corgan, ascends stairs wearing the GERT suit at the firm's Dallas headquarters. The headphones mimic high-frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. The glasses simulate impaired vision. The weights, wraps, and gloves replicate joint stiffness, reduced grip, and loss of coordination-even back bain and paralysis. To see what it's like to wear the GERT suit in an airport, go to: http://bit.ly/28LDkPT

By 2030, a fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau. This cohort and succeeding generations are expected to live longer than their predecessors, and remain much more active into their later years.

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Michael Steiner, AIA, LEED AP, an Associate with Corgan, recently collaborated with the firm’s Francie Abell, Interior Designer, and Landon Moore, Architect, on an age-simulation research project. The goal: to better understand the stresses and anxieties that the 65+ and the mobility-impaired population face when navigating spaces like medical facilities, workplaces, schools, and airports.

“The goal is to elevate awareness of this issue and make sure that we’re designing with these folks in mind,” says Steiner. 

At the heart of the Corgan study is the GERontologic Test suit (GERT), an age-simulation ensemble that incorporates weights, gloves, glasses, wraps, and headphones that tack 40 years of wear and tear on the user. 

Using the GERT suit, Corgan designers experienced first-hand the difficulties that the elderly and mobility impaired confront every day. They walked through four Corgan-designed buildings—Dallas Love Field Airport; Daugherty Elementary, Garland, Texas; Moncrief Cancer Institute, Fort Worth; and Corgan’s headquarters in Dallas. They completed a series of tasks at each location, once wearing the GERT suit and once without.

Simple exercises—grabbing a can of soda from a refrigerator, pulling a roller suitcase through an airport terminal, carrying books down a school hallway, climbing a staircase, working on a desktop computer, taking notes, locating a specific binder on a bookshelf—were excruciatingly difficult for many of the users.

It took participants 52–73% longer to complete the tasks with the GERT suit on than without it.  


Based on their observations (see below), Corgan’s team offers the following takeaways: 

• Consider wayfinding strategies with multiple elements and large signs. Participants tended to look down and reacted more slowly, which led them to miss signage. Wayfinding strategies that incorporate both floor and wall elements could help improve communication.

• Investigate signage locations with areas of bright light and intense shadow. Consider films or frits to help reduce the amount of glare and strong shadows. Minimize the use of white finishes in brightly lit spaces, which can cause glare.

• Include “fatigue mitigation” stations. Break up long distances with areas where occupants can rest and confirm the correct direction. 

• Avoid changes in level along primary pathways. Make sure elevator/escalator cores are readily visible and accessible.

Design with multiple senses in mind. Some users use sight, others depend on touch, sound, or smell.

• Provide seating of different levels (e.g., standard seats, high seats, and something to lean on).

• White text on green was by far the most preferred signage method. White text on blue was also very effective. Backlit signage is highly recommended.

• Avoid using low, protruding objects, such as low chairs and tables.


For more: http://tinyurl.com/CorganAge.



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