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Ars Moriendi

by Susanne Stadler | September 21st, 2014 | Our Selves | Please Comment

The art of dying and the path to a better death was what Katy Butler, the author of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” door talked about at our last AHWGO forum. The mood in the room was passionate and buoyant despite the topic.  The audience from social workers to designers and students in medicine were “all there”. Thanks to people like Katy Butler death and dying is becoming part of our conversation again.

Another medieval quote – ‘memento mori’ or ‘remember death’ or better,  ‘remember that we are all going to die’  is surfacing again – for different reasons than in the Middle Ages. With incredible advances in medicine, hospitals as profit centers and medicare reimbursement system that pays for expensive cures but very little for care giving, more and more people witness an end of life of loved ones which satisfy more the system than put the human being in the center.

More and more people are recognizing that they do have the choice refuse medical treatment and that such choices influence their quality of life and death. Doctors who often see death on their watch as a failure and fix patients to the very end think very different when it comes to applying  these treatments for themselves as a recent study by Johns Hopkins University showed.  Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine   acknowledged that “New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life”. The Institute of Medicine just published a report :“Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life”.

It seems that change is starting to happen. Maybe we can all dare to wish for a good death after an often long life.


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Why private homes are public places

by Susanne Stadler | September 6th, 2014 | Our Homes | Please Comment

Private homes are public places. There is no doubt. Yet many of them are not designed for inhabitants or visitors of different ages and abilities. How many of you have friends or family members who are in a wheel chair or need some other assisted mobility device? Impaired mobility is not the only disability but it is the most visible one and the one most apparent in how buildings accomodate for it. The deficiency in the accessibility of private homes is becoming more and more apparent with an aging population and a wider range of abilities and needs at every age.

At the recent Age and Disability San Francisco Work Group Meeting we got a taste what community effort can bring about and how somebody’s home becomes the community nexus in a neighborhood with no community center  or library. Glenda Hope, former pastor, age 78 has not retired but has become a community organizor in the Cayuga Neighborhood of San Francisco. She organized her neighborhood in clusters with neighbors helping neighbors and with a private home as the community center for each cluster.  What a great, intuitive grass roots initiative, elders as community organizors. What a great incentive for rethinking the private home and its function beyond being just a private shelter. It is time to think beyond our own, current, immediate needs and design homes that can serves us and our friends and community in an inclusive way.

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Advertising Aging

by Susanne Stadler | April 29th, 2014 | Our Homes | Please Comment

Pete Halberstadt owns West Advertising and among his clients are Assisted Living Homes and Car Dealerships. Everybody wants a new car but what about advertising care, and the image of a home when people are mostly in crisis and have exhausted the option of staying in their own home.

 In the last AHWGO salon Pete talked about his experience with advertising for something nobody really wants but many really need.  The basic principles are the same and measurements of success are as important for car dealerships as for Assisted Living Homes. Length of stay, level of occupancy, growth rates are some of the measurements of success. Influencers are family, close others, staff, geriatric care managers, discharge nurses and increasingly internet referral services. The design of websites arecrucial in the decision making.

How can we not bristle at the fact that Assisted Living is a business like any other? With some exceptions many facilities or “communities” have a template approach and how they portray themselves differ only slightly.  Pete talked with great respect about one of the exceptions, AgeSong, a Bay Area company with a humanistic approach that strives to treat people as who they are despite their frailties and decline in function.

 The nomenclature of aging makes change however difficult:

We are a non-profit, faith-based organization that celebrates and respects the dignity and inherent worth of each person. “  A tag line like this makes one wonder why this company has to emphasize that they are aware of the dignity and worth of each person.

The images and colors assigned to aging are sticky:

The colors – beige, yellowish, brownish are preferred.

The people, happy, good looking older adults which are most likely not residents but come from stock photography.


Assessing the quality of a senior home is very difficult and nobody should do it without spending some time in the most care intensive part – Skilled Nursing.

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