This past weekend, I had the chance to interview my grandfather about his experience living in a senior care home in Shanghai, China as a part of a human-centered design event focused on inter-generational harmony. During our interview, his face absolutely lit up with delight when he talked about all of the people that have come to visit him in his new home. I’d always known this, that people coming to visit is good for him and makes him happy, but I didn't realize just how happy it makes him, and what a difference that can make for someone who feels isolated and alone when living in a care home.
I get it. Whether you’re a busy college student or a working adult, it’s really hard to find the time to visit your grandparents, no matter how much you may want to. An attempt to disrupt the idea of what it means to “visit” someone got me to wonder why the geographical barrier to see your own grandfather has to be so high. Why can’t senior care homes be integrated within the apartment complexes we live in?
The apartment complex would be two-fold: senior care on the bottom floors, and regular family apartments on the floors above. By bringing the care for our elderly back into the places we consider “home,” we are tackling two problems at once. On one hand, we reduce the stigma and hassle around moving into a senior care facility. Our loved ones will just be moving a couple of floors down. On the other hand, we lower the barrier to visiting our loved ones at the end of their lives. Living in close proximity will lead to more accessible and frequent visits to see our loved ones, increasing our time spent with each other when it becomes increasingly important to do so.