Page T1.1 . 15 February 2006                     
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    Smart Homes for Healthcare

    by Anijo Mathew

    As U.S. demographics shift with young people leaving rural areas in search of education and jobs and with retirees migrating away from urban centers in search of peace and quiet access to healthcare in remote areas is becoming a more serious and visible problem. Architects can help with the design of technologies that can improve healthcare access in the rural infrastructure. Editor

    Because of demographic imbalances, rural healthcare systems are burdened by the cost of services and the lack of healthcare providers. Mississippi, for example, has one of the lowest physicians-to-population ratios in the country. There is also inadequate access to healthcare. Physicians tend to locate in urban population centers, and rural patients traveling to the nearest hospital may face long trips, necessitating an overnight stay.

    A common solution for problems of elderly healthcare has been to move the elderly to assisted-living centers and nursing homes. However, in a study conducted by Forrester Research in 2003, it was found that although nursing homes house almost 1.5 million seniors, and one-third of those have been there for more than three years, 77 percent of American consumers say they view nursing homes as a last resort.

    The baby-boom generation has put forward their demand they want to age in place within their homes and with their families as long as physically possible. Now, when they are beginning to retire, is an ideal time to initiate changes within people's houses to help augment the current model of healthcare. One suggested alternative is a "prevention rather than crisis management" approach using computing embedded in residential architecture.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    The "dogtrot" vernacular house is an example of adaptation in the rural South despite remoteness from modern infrastructure.
    Photo: Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    Demographic shifts will exacerbate healthcare needs in rural areas.
    Image: Anijo Punnen Mathew

     

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