Health and physical space

Where we live

The physical context we live in affects our community and our health. How close are you to your neighbors, and how often do you see them in the street? Is it walking distance to the train station, grocery store and cafe? Is it safe to ride your bike?

The built environment and its effect on community has been a passion for me for 15 years, since reading that community development programs are more or less successful depending on the layout of housing in the community. Where houses are spread out, interaction is less and community development struggles.

Young and old

A few years ago I saw a new (to me) application of this idea: a documentary about an orphanage in France which was placed together with a retirement home. Children without ancestors, together with ancestors without children – a gap was filled in the lives of both. I’m suggesting it as a panacea – it could be done well or poorly. One obvious issue is the importance of freedom to participate or not – to have common space for the young and old, but also have space for each to retreat when they wish.

(By the way, if you know anything about this orphanage and retirement home, please leave a comment – I can’t recall the name, and I’d love to know how it’s going. I may have some of the details wrong, but I saw it on the “Global Village” program, SBS Australia, I think around 2005.)

The following video describes a somewhat similar idea in the USA: a school that brings children, adult learners and the elderly together, with benefits for young and old in health and educational outcomes and in quality of life.

(The video here launches when he starts talking about the school. If you want to hear about Alzheimer’s disease, scroll back to the beginning.)