November 25, 2011

What sort of place should you want to live in as you get old? A place with "non-Western ideas about healing"?

From a discussion with an architect (Wid Chapman) and a gerontologist (Jeffrey P. Rosenfeld):
Along with grab bars (which are frequently mentioned in your book, though none is visible in the pictures), what makes a house suitable for aging?...

Mr. Rosenfeld: When you mentioned grab bars, it reminded me that most of the homes in the book speak to a Western medical aesthetic, but a few support non-Western ideas about healing. There’s one in particular, Bioscleave, in East Hampton, N.Y., that builds on the idea of reversible destiny: that the home can challenge and stimulate inhabitants to keep them youthful. Everything about that home is colorful. It’s angular. It’s full of intentional surprises and quirks.

I’m glad you mentioned Bioscleave. I wanted to ask about the sloping, textured floors the architects designed to make walking more of an “adventure.” Isn’t that the kind of adventure that can lead to a broken hip?

Mr. Rosenfeld: The house is occupied by a person who lives there part time. A mature person. I haven’t dared ask her age, but I can say that neither of her hips is broken.
Colorful, angular... stimulate and challenge... this made me think of crib toys. They're thinking of old people like babies. I found that repulsive. We've thought a lot about moving to a simpler house, which would also be the house where we'd grow old — hopefully, extremely old. (I see that in the discussion, the gerontologist says he's "beginning to think about how [he and his wife are] going to deal with our inevitable aging." But getting old is not inevitable. It's preferable!)

What Meade and I have talked about wanting is a completely uncluttered, cleanly modern place. I don't look to the walls and floors for stimulation. I want a place that doesn't distract and bother me while I'm doing what I want to do, like read or talk to somebody.

Bioscleave sounds utterly insulting, like old people are babies. Then I looked it up. My lord! It's like old people are hamsters!

Ridiculous! Hilarious! And who cleans that place? Especially of all the blood.

I'm looking at that word "Bioscleave." "Bios" is the Greek word for life in the sense of one's life, course or way of living, lifetime. "Cleave" is a word that famously has 2 meanings. It's an auto-antonym. It can refer to clinging — let's say, to life — or to separation — which, in the case of life, would refer to death.

Take a look at that Bioscleave again. If they try to take you there... get out. I don't want your Hamster Habitat of Death. And I'm not charmed by your burbling about "non-Western" ideas. I don't want your Bioscleave just like I don't want your acupuncture. I want an ultra-Western ultra-modern house to go with my ultra-Western modern medicine.


MadisonMan said...

How do you clean those undulatings surfaces? The architect has probably designed a special cleaning contraption that can be yours for only an extra $5000 or so.

Paco Wové said...

Surely that had to be an Onion satire. Those 'architects'. The big, echo-ey, empty 'house'. Nary a book, or piece of furniture, or bit of artwork to relieve the big blotches of primary colors. Wired must be pulling our collective leg!

james conrad said...

Yep, I am going with Ann on this one.

Mariposa said...

This is obviously part of a conspiracy to kill off us old folks. Where is our new Claude Pepper to get us some respect?

Pogo said...

It would be cheaper just to hire a neighborhood kid to suddenly push grandmas over at random.

Barney Fife: [angry] "Oh, you're just full of fun today, aren't you? Why don't we go up to the old people's home and wax the steps?"

Roger J. said...

My preference would be a fine hotel with a suite of rooms, excellent concierge, all at 200 dollars a nite. Preferably in Vienna or Venice--Bonus points for a balcony where I can spit lugies at the hoi polloi below.

EDH said...

builds on the idea of reversible destiny: that the home can challenge and stimulate inhabitants to keep them youthful. Everything about that home is colorful. It’s angular. It’s full of intentional surprises and quirks.

Althouse: "Bioscleave sounds utterly insulting, like old people are babies. Then I looked it up. My lord! It's like old people are hamsters!"

The place even looks like a child's "Busy Box", one filled with heaps of dried oatmeal.

John Bragg said...

The place strikes me as a special prison, a custom-designed punishment, but I can't place what the crime would be. Possibly pirating DVD's of "The Prisoner"?

Roger J. said...

Presumably, from the evidence presented, architechs are the new idiot class, supassing even social workers, community organizers, and sociologists.

virgil xenophon said...

"Careful, Mom, watch the steps! (as the children are leading the hesitating parent by the arm into the "retirement" home)Remember, now that you've made us the guardian of your estate, everything is going to be just fine!"

Pogo said...

Why do they hate the elderly so?

edwardroyce said...

Well we now know what Woody Allen's next movie is going to be about.

Imagine an older couple moves into one of these things. It would be like Sleeper but with old people.

fleetusa said...

Many people I know in their late 70's and beyond would end up in the hospital within weeks of living in this place. It is certainly NOT user friendly.

The elderly need a user friendly kitchen, bath, bedroom, and den all one one floor. No sharp turns, no stairs, no small spaces.

I just hope the federal government hasn't spent any of our dear tax dollars supporting this foolishness.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Seriously....who pays for this idiot stuff? Who would ever want to live in that Hamster Habitat of Death?

A few years ago, I fell on the stairs " to the sunken level of the house and got a taste of what it would be like to be elderly and movement impaired. NOT FUN. Very frustrating when the most simple things in life, like getting up to go to the bathroom are a struggle.

When we built the house, we thought about this and built in the backing in the walls to be able to attach the grab bars and extra railings to help with the mobility issues.

We plan to age in place until it becomes too much for us. However, the reality is at some point, you just will not be able to live alone or without some assistance.

Such is life.

sydney said...

Not user friendly is putting it mildly. It looks designed to make geriatric health problems worse. The echo chamber effect of the cavernous rooms make hearing harder for the audio logically challenged. The swooping floors make vertigo worse,and the bumps on the floor cause falls and their resulting fractures. The place is a death trap.

edutcher said...

Well, the American way is certainly looking less appetizing.

Word is, if ZeroCare survives, neurosurgery after 70 is a No Go. You'll get "comfort care" and no more.

We didn't get rid of Berwick a moment too soon.

traditionalguy said...

I could recommend watching Gigi again. Maurice Chevalier says, " I'm glad I 'm not young anymore."

My advice to the folks in their 60s is to surround yourself with folks in their late 30s with grandchildren in 2 to 4 ages.(That was practiced as well as preached yesterday)

And let them do the heavy lifting.

PatCA said...

Guess you couldn't have a cocktail party there either. Can you imagine your guests trying to navigate that space after a martini or two?

David said...

Non western = stupid in this case.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My advice to the folks in their 60s is to surround yourself with folks in their late 30s

HA!! We have a friend who is now in her late 80's. We have been friends for the last 20 years,when she and her husband were in their 60's.....the age that we are now. Her family lives across the State and across the country and can't be there daily.

She just moved from her ranch and 4000 sq ft ranch house into an assisted living complex.It has a spa, beauty parlor, nice library, craft activities, shuttle bus to go to the mall and grocery store as well as to the doctors etc. She has her own apartment and the people at the complex make sure she eats, takes her medicine and so on.

The last few years have been a struggle for all of us, especially my husband and myself as we have been more and more caretaking and doing tasks for her. We can see our own future in her experiences.

My remark to the hubby: "Man...I think we'd better get some younger friends!!"

Scott M said...

Cue Crack in 3...2...1...

Peter Ryan said...

Bioscleave looks like a terrific house - when the grandkids come to visit.

I think the most important part of the human psyche was left out - serenity. There is no place in that space (at least, not on the video) to find any privacy. Heck, even the bathtub was open to the main space: no door, not even frosted glass. And the echoes! Can you imagine trying to listen to music in that place while the spouse is watching a documentary?

Bioscleave is not my cup of subterranean-served chai tea.

ricpic said...

Why doesn't the beautiful person architect answer the question about the possibility (probability more likely) of a broken hip in his cockamamie house?! Because he's a beautiful person, that's why.

edutcher said...

Ditto on what tg said. A bunch of kids to lift and, just as important, bend down or get down on the floor to grab stuff, clean, etc., is a very useful household appurtenance.

Funny how everything your great-grandparents lived by is coming back.

The Crack Emcee said...

Thank you, Scott M, for that introduction:

The house is occupied,...

Pepperspray that place.

I knew a guy with AIDS who died in one of those non-Western environments. This was before my anti-NewAge conversion, when I didn't know or care about any of it, but - boy - did I hate going there.

Thank goodness I'm black and can plan to die early,...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

On the plus side, it does seem to have enough stripper poles.

madAsHell said...

Somewhere there's a drum circle missing a dead dancer!

From where did the money come?? Who paid for that monstrosity? oh, dollars. It was me.

M.E. said...

If you could imagine a place designed by someone with raging schizophrenia, that would be it.

caplight said...

The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead.
[a man puts a body on the cart]
Large Man with Dead Body: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm getting better.
Large Man with Dead Body: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
The Dead Collector: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I don't want to go on the cart.
Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, don't be such a baby.
The Dead Collector: I can't take him.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I feel fine.
Large Man with Dead Body: Oh, do me a favor.
The Dead Collector: I can't.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
The Dead Collector: I promised I'd be at the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today.
Large Man with Dead Body: Well, when's your next round?
The Dead Collector: Thursday.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I think I'll go for a walk.
Large Man with Dead Body: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I feel happy. I feel happy.
[the Dead Collector glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Body with his a whack of his club]
Large Man with Dead Body: Ah, thank you very much.
The Dead Collector: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Large Man with Dead Body: Right.

Aridog said...

Where did they find those ghouls who expounded in the video?

Scary looking ... where's my pepper spray?

Freeman Hunt said...

Weird. They mixed up the video footage with that from the Kill Papaw House.

Astro said...

If you do have a house custom built, insist that all doors are a minimum of 32 inches wide. There is a good chance that someone in the house may need to use a wheelchair, even if only for a while. Many interior doors are only 24" or 28" wide. Try getting into a bathroom that has a 28 inch wide door when the wheelchair is 30 inches wide.
Likewise with the shower. Get one that can be accessed by someone in a wheelchair.

Rabel said...

"We have decided not to die."
- Arakawa and Gins. Creators of the Bioscleave.


- Shusaku Arakawa, artist and architect, born 6 July 1936; died 18 May 2010

Ralph L said...

My grandparents built or rebuilt 2 houses, in 1922 and 1940, and in both, the doorway from the kitchen to the rest of the house is an inch narrower than the others. Since parking is in the back, everyone enters through the kitchen.

I gutted and rebuilt the 1874/1922 house ten years ago (with a 48" door to the kitchen), so I can die in the house my father and grandfather were born in. Just hope I'm found before the smell alerts the neighbors.

ic said...

Some broken hip oldsters will sue them to the poor house.

Revenant said...

Well, they ARE "non-Western" ideas.

Also, non-Asian, non-African, etc. No culture builds houses like that, and for good reason.

X said...

huh. I'm helping an elderly neighbor with some modifications and we're making his house easier for him to use, but then we didn't let a team of poets, artists, and celebrity architects plan it for us, so that probably accounts for the difference.

David said...

When I am old, I want to live in a place like the one where I live now.

Whoops, I am old. So I'm getting my wish.

William said...

Life's big challenge is to find an unchallenging environment in which to live out one's days.

Phil 3:14 said...

absurd is too gentle of a word to describe this.

"Enhance your immunity"

(and Crack bait no less!)

David said...

Crack: "Thank goodness I'm black and can plan to die early,..."

This white boy planned that too. My father died at 49, his brother at 56, his father at 55.

Didn't work out that way for me. So all of life now is a gorgeous bonus.

David said...

Maybe my ancestors were black!! Why was I not told.

Joe said...

designed to make walking more of an “adventure.”

Who the hell wants the physical act of walking itself to be an adventure in your own house?

Phil 3:14 said...

"My immune system is enhanced.

Unfortunately, my hip is broken"

(though, the owner of this house might be the one person I would prescribe medical marijuana to.)

yashu said...

"Bioscleave"-- shudder-- sounds like the title of a dystopian science fiction novel. Or a horror film.

A house of horrors. Or a vicious obstacle course that elderly citizens are forced to undergo everyday, a knife-edge test of survival. Bioscleave: where you literally have to hang on for dear life-- or the cord is cut, and you're hacked off from life like a rotten limb.

chrisnavin said...

Old people hate change and can't remember anything new.

Let's put old people in a large playland maze that will be new for them, with uneven surfaces, and goofy floors.

Great idea!

Orion said...

While the Hamster House of Death is clearly a horror, don't make the assumption that all of us WANT to grow old ANYWHERE. After 7 years as an EMT and having volunteered at retirement communities in my much younger days, I long ago decided that 55 was my limit.

At that age, everything still works. After that, rapid decay pretty much sets in and I have NO wish to spend 20+ years rotting slowly while people treat me as a child (or a hamster) and change my diapers. I have no with to spend even a single DAY like that.

Thanks, I'll opt out on my own at 55. Your mileage may vary, of course.


MadisonMan said...

I wonder what happens in a power failure, and the house is pitch dark, and you're in the kitchen and have to go.

chrisnavin said...

On the cheap, I think I"m going to take grandpa to Chuck E Cheese instead. We'll set him adrift in the ball pit and keep flashing a strobe light on his face until he succumbs to his new environment.

It's be good for him. He always liked challenges.

Seeing Red said...

Why would an elderly person want to live on an angled floor?

Freeman Hunt said...

Well, they ARE "non-Western" ideas.

Also, non-Asian, non-African, etc. No culture builds houses like that, and for good reason.


Simon Kenton said...

Very cool that they got Voldemort in to review the house.

Michael Haz said...

Former home builder here.

Good heavens, what a load of nonsense. Building a home one can live in as one becomes elderly is shockingly easy, and if done well, not at all noticeable. Here's a short version:

Single story design, no thresholds to step over at entry and exit. Sloping sidewalks to entry doors rather than steps.

Slightly wider hallways to allow for 3 foot wide doors into all rooms. No-step showers with adjustable or hand-held shower heads. Slightly lower electric switches and slightly higher electric outlets.

Crank-out casement windows rather than double-hungs. No cabinets under sinks to allow for wheelchairs. Tactile floor surfaces.

It isn't anything new.

Beldar said...

Grab bars are an excellent and inexpensive improvement that can benefit all ages. You've just got to have the right hardware -- and to find the studs.