The Sleepover Project

I was really excited to have made a connection several months ago through this blog with an innovative architect named David Dillard who is President of CSD Architects.

David Dillard PhotoIn an effort provide better design and build in a more responsive manner, David’s firm is sending each member of its senior living architectural design team (approx. 36 architects) to stay overnight in a variety of senior living communities across the country. They have titled this as the “Sleepover Project”.  The “sleepers” will spend their time on site fully and physically experiencing what it’s like to be a resident in that community.  Upon arrival, the Sleeper will be assigned a specific medical condition and will then assume the limitations of that condition and experience a simulated version of its treatment and care.  Conditions may range from a stroke victim having partial paralysis to an Alzheimer’s patient receiving Memory Care.  Sleepers will participate in the community’s daily life for a full 24 hour period, and the varying levels of service and activities will accommodate their condition and corresponding lifestyle.”

David kicked off this project by “sleeping over” at a nursing center in Los Altos, CA. He shared his journal entry with me and I loved reading this statement, “In the big scheme of things, even the PERFECT building won’t matter THAT much.  Just as the perfect school building does not guarantee a perfect education, nor the perfect hospital healing, in the end it’s not about the architecture.  It is about the players within them – the students, the teachers, the patients, and the doctors – the people.”  I love his comparison to the players in a school. I have found some of my most profound thoughts come from comparing our system of elder services to our education and youth services. There is a stark difference from the stigma of these two worlds, yet they are both tremendously important to our progression as a society. I agree that the architecture pales in comparison to the people, but I am excited that we have designers stepping up to create design that will potentially provide a “better” setting for the us, the people that are living and working in these homes.

David and I both share the same awe for the rich history and wisdom that our fellow residents have and I feel the realization that their stories need to be told and more people need to reach out and connect with these elders.

I applaud the spirit of this project, I hope that more organizations and professionals in a variety of disciplines follow our lead by experiencing the services and settings that are serving “elders” first hand. I still am shaking my head at how easy it is was to detach myself from this process that I was regarded to be an “expert” in.  If architects are building homes for elders that they are not living in themselves or that they are not willing to live in, then we clearly have detachment at the most important process of design. I look forward to seeing the change that David and his team at CSD impose on design with this innovative project. Hopefully the end result will be the creation of “homes” designed for “us” and not for “them”.

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