In Calgary, Alberta, a multidisciplinary team is designing, fabricating and testing specialized laneway houses for seniors.
Architects, environmental designers, doctors and physiotherapists are among the people collaborating on the innovative “aging in place” pilot project, which has the potential to change senior housing and care in Calgary, and around the world.
Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design, Cumming School of Medicine, and O’Brien Institute for Public Health have spent three years designing and building prototypes inside a lab.
The resulting prefabricated laneway houses (which are often referred to as backyard cottages or mother-in-law units in the U.S.) are equipped with medical monitoring technology and chronic disease management equipment. They could be temporarily leased and moved into the backyard of a family member, helping seniors remain in a home environment and age in place in a community for as long as possible.
Now the project, which has support from the province’s health authority and the city of Calgary, is shifting into test mode. A local senior is expected to live in and try out a fully functional laneway house, starting early next year. After a few months, the unit will be moved to a different community and another senior will move in.
“We’ll be collecting a huge amount of data from them, from their family, from the neighbors, from the community, from their healthcare team, to find out what works and what doesn’t,” John Brown, project lead, told city councilors in an October presentation. In the future, it’s hoped doctors could prescribe the laneway houses and families could lease them, just like they would with a wheelchair or other medical equipment…