Tag Archives: McKeesport

Analysis: Limitations of disability housing design

Figure 1.1. Nadya Ludwig in her customary position watching the front door at Addison Court and greeting all 95  residents by name [1]

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Summary

The generation born after the Second World War is commonly referred to as “The Baby Boom Generation.” The U.S. Census Bureau provides statistics on Baby Boomers not as helpful as one would desire. The census definition begins in 1945 (when World War II ended) until the 1960s (when the birthrate began to decline). Only a portion of this demographic is useful for an understanding of housing requirements for the elderly and most especially the disabled. Disability rates are highest  among those 65 and older–the focus for this analysis. [2]

This work is a natural outgrowth of a study I have been doing with Dr. Ali Memari of the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center (PHRC). The study is a guide to designing the entrance and interior of a single-family residence. Portions of this study (to be published independently) are included here to provide guidance on design decisions and principles required to understand methods that must be employed to make housing accessible. Especially helpful is the concept of “evidence-based design” which the architecture, construction, and engineering (AEC) community has embraced. [3]. One former president of the American Institute of Architects has described how evidence-based design has swept through her profession. More to the point, evidence-based design is the overriding principle (described in considerable detail both here and in the technical manual).

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The Problem with sociology–Not the digression it seems

The origins of sociology are not in question. The question: Is sociology a science?

When Émile Durkheim established sociology as an academic discipline before World War I, there was no question that sociology was a science. [4] Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Science]is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe,” writes Edmund Wilson in Consilience : The Unity of Knowledge. [5]

I regret to say sociology suffers from failed repute in academic circles. Sadly, this has affected adversely the academic community’s regard for  the popularity of a book I love; viz. The Lonely Crowd by David Reisman et al. who after publication became Harvard’s Chairman of the Sociology Department. [6]

“In midcentury America, sociologists for a while rivaled even psychiatrists in their seeming ability to explain everything about everything. The most influential sociologist of the era was David Riesman… Originally intended for the college classroom, ”The Lonely Crowd” unaccountably landed on the best-seller lists and stayed there for months and months as thousands of Americans anxiously examined themselves and their neighbors for directional indications.

“In short, there’s nothing very rigorous about ”The Lonely Crowd,” but the book feels scientific all the same; its very structure imparts a suggestion of seriousness and gravitas.” This critique by New York Times writer Charles McGrath reflects distress within sociology academia. A notable Harvard sociologist who best expressed this distress is Orlando Patterson. Writing in The New York Times, Patterson states, “The dishonoring of David Riesman, and the tradition of sociology for which he stood, is not a reflection of their insignificance. It is merely a sign of the rise in professional sociology of a style of scholarship that mimics the methodology and language of the natural sciences — in spite of their inappropriateness for the understanding of most areas of the social world.”

The relevance of Dr. Patterson’s criticism to this critique is twofold. First, it is necessary to ensure this analysis is indeed science. Second, it is important to heed Dr. Patterson’s concern that a larger analysis of a problem is missing in the current academic wave of sociology’s repute. Hence I proceed with guarded optimism this analysis must indeed be science. This inquiry focuses on the significance of community when analyzing the effectiveness of renovating housing for the disabled. In doing so, I pay homage to  the principles which Emil Durkheim asserted when he established sociology as an academic discipline. [7]

Fortunately, this analysis uses as its organizational construct the classic work by Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd two Columbia University-based sociologists whose work has consistently been held in high repute.

This analysis reflects its light from the considerable contribution of the Lynds’ 1929 study Middletown. [8] The study helped provide a structure to guide one to an understanding of disability housing and indeed disability and elderly equality. The intent of this analysis is to pour cold water on the sense of accomplishment one achieves from renovating a residence to make it wheel chair accessible. A residence in the wrong place is no residence at all. After all the elderly and disabled are best served by a public transit system also offering dependable para transit.

It is directly relevant to note the disabled and elderly are a group discriminated against considerably [9]. Let us first focus on the matter at hand; viz. renovating. While focusing remember there is a leitmotif here (the community where the renovation takes place) which will emerge as the goal of this analysis. The goal is integration of the house renovated for the disabled and the community without. Without complete integration access is incomplete and resources are wasted.

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Let us start with a house where the resident and principal source of income becomes disabled.

This is the house in where I lived when I lost the ability to walk in 1995.

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What follows is suggested bathroom design (with appreciation to Blueroof’s Experimental Cottage, McKeesport, PA) [10]:

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The Bathroom

The bathroom and bedroom are clearly the areas in the residence where accommodations are required for safety and other purposes. One example of an issue worthy of attention concerns the use of mobility devices  useful for getting from room to room and whose function may affect the ability to make individual rooms accessible.

The issue of a sling an individual can use without assistance to lift oneself up from wheelchair to toilet seat or from bed to wheelchair has a significant effect on the process of home renovation.

Figure BR 1. Sensor warning of fall hazard

For individuals with mobility problems, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. It can be wet leading to falls. Clients may be impatient to get in and out quickly thus lending to its danger. There may be inadequate rails. Depending upon when the residence was built, the entrance and exit may be uncomfortably narrow. This might be a good place to consider removing walls and widening the hallway.

Entrance and exit

In many older residences, the path leading to the bathroom is a narrow one. Figure BR2 shows the client using a mobility device to come from the bedroom [behind] in the direction of the refrigerator [ahead].

Figure BR2. Narrow bathroom entrance

The width of the hallway with the bathroom door closed is 41 inches. ADA standards call for a width of 48 inches. The reader may not help but notice that because of a shortage of electrical outlets, the toaster is on the floor.

Figure BR3. The hazards of a narrow bathroom door.

With the bathroom door open the width is only 38 ½ inches. Figure BR3 shows what happens when a powerful power chair, driven by a client impatient to get to the bathroom, collides with the door. A door in a narrow hallway causes difficulties for an individual riding a mobility device including the problem of being able to close the door.

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One solution is a pocket-door once fashionable in the late 19th Century which is making a comeback especially for those modifying homes for greater mobility.

Figure BR4. Sliding pocket doors

Clients using the bathroom sink below must go elsewhere, to the kitchen sink for example (or bring along their own mirror) to comb hair, apply makeup, shave, and perform other daily rituals.

A lower sink and mirror set are the most immediate solution. Two grab bars at the base of the sink would make it easier for the individual with a mobility disability to stand or maintain balance. A specially designed sink located elsewhere in the residence could save on remodeling costs. Below is a sink installed at an appropriate height in a residence bedroom which can be modified for individual requirements.

 

 

 

Figure BR5. Bathroom sink

Insertion of an additional sink (either in the bathroom or elsewhere in the residence) also is useful to minimize bathroom accidents can be cleaned up without becoming a major issue)

Other bathroom considerations include:

  • Where to put one’s cane, crutches, or park one’s mobility device
  • Storage of toiletries so they are accessible

Bathroom sink

Clients using the bathroom sink must go elsewhere, to the kitchen sink for example (or bring along their own mirror) to comb hair, apply makeup, shave, and perform other daily rituals.

 

 

Figure BR6. Kitchen sink (provides options not available at bathroom sink)

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Toilet

Going to the toilet requires more prudence than adults without disabilities require. A mobility disability, by its nature, means it takes more time to get from one place to another. Individuals used to going to the toilet on a schedule comfortable to them before they became disabled may be surprised at how much extra time they must factor in.

 

Figure BR7. Toilet

The toilet shown above should be reassuring. The two grab bars are sturdy and well-positioned. However, it is always helpful to make sure the toilet seat itself is securely fashioned and to check each time before using.

For individuals with transference issues, there are transfer boards for going from wheel chair to toilet:

 

 

 

 

 

Figure BR8. Toilet transfer board

This is a convenient way of transferring from a mobility device to the toilet. Less elaborate transfer boards are available. For those with more serious mobility problems, a sling attached to the ceiling is recommended or one might consider installing tracks on the ceiling so a device the individual can use by oneself can easily be moved from the bedroom where it lifted the individual from bed to wheelchair.

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Use of a sling

 

 

 

Figure BR9. One of a wide variety of slings

Within the past five years, two developments have made it practical for individuals with severe mobility disabilities to live independently. The first is the development of a sling an individual can use oneself for transference. The above is not a good photograph and should be replaced with a better one. The second development is the use of the ceiling as a method for locomotion; namely, one puts oneself in a sling attached to the ceiling; tracks along the ceiling make it possible to move across the residence, and one can lower oneself to, for example, a bed or a wheelchair in the kitchen. Notice the ceiling tracks:

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Ceiling

Last year, I saw a trailer developed by Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport, PA for the use of veterans whose lower limbs had been amputated. The veteran was able to go by sling and ceiling device from bed to bathroom to kitchen for breakfast and then out into the world on a mobility device. Not all this information is relevant to the bathroom.]

 

Figure BR10. Ceiling tracks

Toilet

If the individual does not allow enough time to position oneself at or on the toilet, accidents can occur just when they seemed most avoidable. Individuals who have not experienced an accident since childhood and who assumed such problems would not occur for decades find themselves discouraged when an accident occurs. For individuals who suddenly experience mobility problem, incontinence may be a temporary consequence and it is useful for the individual to understand that temporary means temporary.

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Bathroom fixtures

 

Figure BR11. A convenient dispenser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure BR12. Shower head for roll-in shower

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Figure BR13. Shower head ready for use

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Figure BR14. Shower head ready to be put back in place

 

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Figure BR15. Standard shower chair

Bathtubs

Conventional bathtubs, such as the one below, provide problems involved with getting in and out. The market place, using slings and transfer boards, does make it possible for individuals with mobility difficulties to take baths. However, a roll-in shower, unless other considerations are involved (e.g. skin disorders, the requirement to soak limbs, and the like), the roll-in shower is probably the most cost effective.

 

Figure BR16. Think twice about getting into this bathtub

Off the shelf technology gives residents an added level of protection. Figure BR1  shows a motion detector in the bathroom. Motion detection makes it possible to alert caregivers (by a voice simulator automatically calling 911 or another number) if someone slips in the shower, for example, and does not get up according to a pre-programmed time schedule. The cost of this technology is relatively modest and has been falling steadily.

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Imagine using this imaging technology displayed for design and working out such issues as how to get from scooter to bath chair? One might:

  • Turn the scooter around so water does not fall on the controls
  • Back up to the shower chair
  • Swivel the scooter chair locking it into place.
  • A hand rail would be useful to go from scooter chair to shower chair.

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Figure BR17. Virtual reality is helpful when going to the shower

References

Footnotes

  1. I am sad to say that Nadya Ludwig is dead. Nadya and Lilian H. served as greeters at Addison Court’s hug a firewoman and man on Valentine’s Day. The event was held at the bingo parlor across from my apartment. Each left the low-income disabled and elderly housing complex in which I live in an ambulance.

Books

Doidge, Norman (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself, Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. New York, NY. Penguin Books.

Durkheim, Émile (1897; 2006 translation). On Suicide. Trans. Robin Buss. London, England. Penguin Books.

Gratz, Roberta Brandes (2010). The Battle for Gotham, New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. New York, N.Y. Nation Books.

Hamilton, D. Kirk & Watkins, David H. Watkins (2009). Evidence-Based Design for Multiple Building Types. Hobokin, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Jacobs, Jane (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York, N.Y. Vintage Books.

Keesing, Roger M. (1976). Cultural Anthropology, A Contemporary Perspective. New York, N.Y. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Kottak, Conrad Phillip (20080. Cultural Anthropology, Twelfth Edition. New York, N.Y. McGraw-Hill.

Kunstler, James Howard (1993). Geography of Nowhere, The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape. New York, N.Y. Simon & Schuster.

Lynd, Robert S. and Lynd, Helen Merrell (1929). Middletown, A Study in Modern American Culture. New York, N.Y. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Riesman, David; Glazer, Nathan and Denney, Reuel (1950). The lonely crowd : a study of the changing American character. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press.

Solkoff, Joel (1981). Learning to Live Again, My Triumph Over Cancer. New York, N.Y. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Wilson, Edward (1999). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Vintage.

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Periodicals et cetera

 

Thank you to the State College Community, Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering and to the Jewish people

On this Sunday night, I am sitting in my apartment four blocks away by scooter to Penn State’s iconic Old Main.  You have seen it on television.

Penn_state_old_main_summerContemplating my forthcoming cancer surgery, I cannot help but express my gratitude.

My gratitude extends the length and breadth of the Borough of State College under the inspiration of our dynamo Mayor Elizabeth Goreham.

The Borough of State College includes all Downtown, which is at economic risk, suburban State College (but not suburban enough to collect the large revenues). and Penn State University.

We are all Penn State here.

First and foremost, I want to thank Elaine Meder-Wilgus.Next year, Webster’s proprietor Elaine Meder-Wilgus will be reading the role of the sensuous Molly Bloom whom Joyce deliberately paralleled to Homer’s Penelope.

Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe has immeasurably improved the quality of my life here. Book Store Duchess Anne and I contemplate Webster’s related activity, such as promoting the bookstore with a recreation of the Battle of Trafalgar. We require three floats such as are featured at the Rose Bowl, each retailing for $120,000.One ship on the converted float would be the one where Lord Nelson dies; there would be a French and Spanish ship as well. Of course, the helicopter with Elaine playing Lady Hamilton. Funding has been a problem.

Thank you employees and patrons of Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe. Thank you.

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I thank my neighbors, friends, Cathy Fisher, Bryan and the excellent maintenance staff, and the owners and managers of my apartment building.

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Other than names already mentioned, I will not use this space to express my appreciation of my family and friends–except when I get the urge.

This posting is intended to express appreciation for the environment where I reside. So, herein is the way I have arranged my thank you’s, including my thanks to:

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I thank, of course, my dear friend Fire Chief Steve Bair.

I also thank Police Chief Tom Kane, who has been thoughtfully responsive to my emails–long as they are.

I also thank my assemblyman Scott Conklin. I especially like Scott–period. I am glad that he is a real union man.

I also thank my REPUBLICAN Congressman Glenn (“GT”) Thompson [Republican,. Fifth Congressional District of PA]. GT was a physical therapist before he was elected to Congress despite my active campaign against him on behalf of his Democratic challenger Mark McCracken.

GT met his wife while they were changing bedpans at the nursing home I will enter by default if anything happens to me. Since his election to  Congress, GT has displayed an admirable record regarding medical oxygen, wheel chairs, scooters, and power chairs–equipment that is indispensable to paraplegics such as myself and to others in the disability community. President Obama, despite his rhetoric–holding my nose voting for him this time around–having voted for candidate Obama in the PA primary and then worked for his first election insisting that Democratic headquarters pour new concrete for its broken down wheel chair access ramp.

Excuse the rant. The point is GT has been an inspiration to the durable medical equipment community even if he is a Republican.

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Regarding health care gratitude, I do not know where to start. When I had pneumonia in November right before Thanksgiving, I felt like hell. I called 911. The ambulance was here in no time. I breezed through the Emergency Room and would up in a room with a view and I had a really great doctor–right down the road at Mt. Nittany Hospital where the food is good.

Let us start with Sapana Minali, my primary care physician at Geisinger Medical Center. When the excellent and gracious urologist Jennifer Simmons diagnosed that I had cancer, Dr. Simmons referred me to Sloan Kettering in New York for a surgical consultation….

When that happened, my primary care physician was informed that I was discharged from the hospital but with a kidney cancer diagnosis. Dr. Minali then directed her staff to call me and when that did not work after many un-returned calls, Dr. Minali called me herself.

Meanwhile, she directed that I receive social services available to someone in my situation, and the wonderful Doreen Moronski found me the Bob Perks Fund, which provides grants to individuals who have to travel for medical reasons. My grant pays my monthly rent every four months for a year, plus provides a $160 grocery store card every quarter.

Thank you Bob Perks.

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Regarding the Jewish people: Words cannot describe my gratitude to Rabbi David Ostrich, who performed the State College memorial service for my mother Dr. Miriam P. Schmerler at my apartment building–where we had a minyan.

My attachment to the Jewish people is based on my strong belief in Zionism, my great love for the Hebrew language (the Bible is great stuff in the original), and my attachment to things Jewish. My spirituality has not been invoked by traditional Jewish practice. I have been strongly spiritual for as long as I can remember. I am very fond of the Wisdom of the East. Confucius’ Analects and the teachings of the Buddha have provided me with understanding. Rabbi Ostrich has been demonstrating to me the compatibility of Eastern teachings with an understanding of The Torah.

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Congregation Brit Shalom and the Jewish Federation of Pennsylvania have provided me with the funding that made it possible to receive cancer treatment in New York City, 250 miles away from State College. For my June trip to Sloan Kettering, where Dr.Russo decided to operate, I received $1,500. It is astonishing how expensive is New York. After shopping around, I found a cheap garage that would let me park the car for $400 for the week I was there for tests and consultation.

Last week, Rabbi Ostrich met me at the PNC bank on College Avenue and provided me with an additional $1500 for this trip to New York for surgery and two weeks of recovery. This total of $3,000 exhausts the extent of generosity from a small congregation. Thank you, landsmen of my Congregation including the Bagel Boys.

Thanks to the Jewish people: I was raised by a single mother in the 1950s when that was no picnic. My mother supported us on her salary as a teacher of Hebrew school teacher, a Hebrew school principal, and an Educator. She liked it when people called her a theologian.

I remember first hearing the words of the Bible in Hebrew when I was five. From grades 1-8, the day began at the Hebrew Academy of Greater Miami with a pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag and a singing of the anthem of the State of Israel–both flags displayed.

During those years, I read the Five Books of Moses in the original Hebrew in the mornings and studied English subjects in the afternoon. There was a lot to praying.

While I have rejected much, my love of the Hebrew language remains. My support for Israel as a safe, peaceful, Jewish entity is strong. “If I forget Jerusalem, let me forget how to use my right hand….”

What I have always found to my surprise and relief is the availability of Jewish Family Services and similar organizations to be there for me because that is what our people do. We care for each other.

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Regarding work:

I may get emotional here, so forgive me in advance.

I have a strong feeling about my work.

I have spent years learning how to write.

Now, I know what to write about.

I write about how to overcome the limitations of a disability and live life to the full.

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For the past four years, I have been working as a research assistant at Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering. Dr. John Messner hired me.

John is in charge of the Computer Integrated Construction (CIC group) and runs the Immersive Construction (ICon) Lab. Shown here is the ICon lab’s mascot:

Costa Rican Frog

Given the still recovering construction industry’s state, the building of hospitals and medical facilities–taking place at a rapid pace–has proven to be a great relief. The images projected on John’s three screens viewed with 3-D glasses are intended to help architects, engineers, and construction personnel conceptualize design and then make changes before construction begins.

John assigned me to work with now Dr. Sonali Kumar’s whose graduation I attended in May, one week before my daughter Joanna graduated with her usual honors from nursing school.

ChimayJoelSonaliMessner

Sonali’s thesis is entitled, Experience-based design review of healthcare facilities using interactive virtual prototypes. 

Yes, I am in Sonali’s thesis. See below.

I was the model for her avatar for the independent living virtual reality module designed in Autodesk’s BIM-compliant Revit and imported into a Unity gaming engine.

Somewhere in my appreciation from the virtual reality lab, I became obsessed with McKeesport, a Pennsylvania Rust Belt town with high poverty, a lot of crime, and two gifted men the brilliant Robert Walters and the capable and enabling John Bertoty who created a Blueroof Research Experimental Cottage.

BobWasltersandJohnBertoty

The cottage was constructed in a factory where sensors were placed in the walls. With digging the foundation, it took 3 days to assemble the structure. The cottage contains a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and  two bedrooms.

Closeup3-Davatarinkitchen

Cameras are available at the client’s option for monitoring. Motion detectors can tell whether a resident has fallen in the shower and communicate that information by voice simulation to 911 as a call for help. This is off the shelf technology.

This kind of low-cost housing for low-income individuals represents an understanding of how to design a residence for elderly and disabled individuals that helps them live their lives.

During a period when the largest generation in U.S. history is retiring–Baby Boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day…. There is no way the housing stock in our country can support the demand.

Over 90 percent of U.S. housing is NOT wheel chair accessible.

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Then, along came Dr. Richard Behr, Chair of the Center for Aging in Place at the Department of Architectural Engineering. (Why at the Department of Architectural Engineering? you may ask. Ask.)

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Richard and I became planners. A Pittsburgh foundation had paid $50,000 to design a plan for downtown McKeesport. Richard and I wrote a grant proposal to the Ford Foundation for the funding to execute the plan. I plan to go back to the Ford Foundation for reconsideration.

Then, there would follow useful studies Penn State could perform, especially for my boss Dr. Ali Memari, Chair of the Pennsylvania Housing Research Center.

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Dr. Memari and I are coauthoring a report entitled

Renovating Existing Housing to Provide Individuals with Mobility Disabilities the Opportunity to Live Independently

The book contains a lot of photographs of independent living facilities where design modifications should have been required. I will be submitting my work thus far to Dr. Memari by close of business on Thursday.

LiftonSecondFloor

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Gratitude is hard to express. Syrup often accompanies it. More of the gratitude I feel will be expressed as time goes by.

–30–

Joel Solkoff

Noisy Thanksgiving November 22, 2012

Copyright © 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A classic is a book no one reads, Mark Twain said

"I read from Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy."
“I read from Mark Twain’s lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.”

I had pneumonia until three days ago when I was discharged from the hospital.

These days, my health has been doing well:

  • In May, I attended my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s graduation from college.
  • In June, I spent two weeks in McKeesport, PA seeing how low-cost high-tech housing for elderly and disabled individuals can be made to work.
  • In October, I returned from elder daughter Joanna and future son-in-law Jade Phillips’ Engagement Party.

I am happy in my work and in my life.

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A little illness serves to remind that the way we spend our time matters.

What follows on this site is short installments of Helen Keller‘s 116 page book The Story of my Life.

Here in this season of darkness, when fancy paper containing gifts you will not use are torn away, I have decided to make a token gesture that will brighten your life and change your world view for the better if only you let it.

What follows are selected quotations Helen Keller published in 1903. How Helen Keller’s perspective on the value of life has affected me personally is a subject for another time.

For you, the following may alert you to the fact that a young woman in her 1920s, a woman who could neither see nor hear, opened up the world to another way of viewing reality–a path so radical in its conception and so beneficial to anyone who reads her that life as we know it will never be the same again. That is why The Story of My Life is   appropriately regarded as one of the great books of the 20th Century (and of the century in which I live in now).

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–“I found out the use of a key. One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the servants were in a detached part of the house. She kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the jar of the pounding.”

–“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

–“It seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: “What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?” In the most evident sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.”

–“In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had always been accustomed to read the propositions in line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions were right before me, I found the braille confusing, and could not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had always done my work in braille or in my head. Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to write examination papers. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples over and over before I could form any idea of what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it very hard to keep my wits about me.”

–“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am not going to tell anybody.

–“But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and “faded into the light of common day.” Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college, there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.”

–“But the examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life. Although I have faced them many times and cast them down and made them bite the dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals take place are spent in cramming your mind with mystic formulæ and indigestible dates–unpalatable diets, until you wish that books and science and you were buried in the depths of the sea.”

–“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew. Again and again I ask impatiently, “Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?” They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men.”

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For extensive bibliographic information on Helen Keller’s Story of My Life: see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html

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Joel Solkoff, December 20, 2012, State College, PA

 

 

 

Navigating

Oh, a storm is threat’ning/ My very life today/ If I don’t get some shelter/Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away/

–“Gimme Shelter” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

The site has two central parts:

I. The theme

II. Digressions (anything not related directly to the theme; for the purpose of the site my daughters Joanna and Amelia [you may ask “You really regard your family as a digression?), my stories, essays, career achievements, poems, and other flights of fancy and whimsy are off message.

Now and then being a nerd, as I am, can get in the way or as the Tibetan Book of the Dead notes sometimes you (by which I mean I) become so intense that the intensity becomes “intense pride, and the pride turns into an ice-cold environment which reinforced by self –satisfaction begins to get into the system. It does not allow us to dance or smile or hear the music.” At the risk of not hearing the music, I will leave you, dear reader, to find order in Diversions as you will. Right now, the task at hand is the order the theme.

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Navigating the theme: No shelter from the storm

  1. Where do I want to go?

To a neighborhood which must be developed to serve as a global model for providing independent living so elderly and disabled individuals can age in place.

  1. What would the neighborhood consist of?

a)      It would consist of an experimental residence for an individual or an individual family. The example of the Blueroof Experimental Cottage in McKeesport, PA is a good example. The cottage consists of a one story residence built on inexpensive land in a downtown burned out section of town where rotting buildings could be razed and a community developed.

b)      The individual residence could be built out of factory housing (the fashionable term for mobile home) where sensors and other off-the-shelf technology can be embedded in the walls to monitor and protect the resident. Including building the foundation, each residence can be constructed in three days.

c)      Technology in the residence would include:

  • Security system to protect elderly and disabled residents in high-crime areas such as exist throughout the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania—where the neighborhood would gradually change to a family friendly area attracting economic growth.
  • Motion detectors to monitor falls throughout the residence, especially high risk areas such as the shower.
  • Computer voice simulation which combined with a wireless communication system can have, in effect, the walls of the building calling family or other emergency services for help.
  • Monitoring devices to detect, for example, whether the refrigerator has been opened and to call for help after an adjusted period of time. Example of a computer generated call, “Hello, your grandmother has not opened her refrigerator in over 24 hours. You might want to look in on her.”
  • Remote medical monitoring, including taking blood pressure and other health measurements and transmitting the results automatically to a physician’s office.
Blueroof”s trial pill dispenser which monitors whether the resident has taken each required pill and after computer simulated warnings, reports failure to do so.
  • Computer terminals and other equipment to provide the resident with job training (one is never too old to learn) and work opportunities from home.

d)      A research facility at a major university, such as Penn State, where the Immersive Construction (ICon) lab develops a 3-D model of the experimental model so stakeholders can suggest design changes.

 

Stakeholders would include:

  • Prospective residents of future neighborhood (or elsewhere) housing
  • Members of the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) community
  • Caregivers

The research facility would also be able to process data collected at the experimental facility, such as remote medical monitoring and activities of daily living (ADL) so future construction can benefit.

e)      Creation of an inter-generational accessible community with shopping, recreation, and other services which make a community a community.

Stay tuned for further navigational aids which link posts on this site to the issues raised here and which answers the question: Why is creation of a new kind of neighborhood (with a variety of other options to be presented) so critical to dealing with the housing shortage throughout the world as the largest generation in history begins to retire in an environment where a previous generation of elderly and disabled individuals (including, of course, veterans) are so poorly served at a great expense to society and at a loss of dignity among people whose talents are not being developed adequately.]

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I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away/ It’s just a kiss away….

–“Gimme Shelter” by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nU4aiqvyt4&feature=watch_response

McKeesport is not as depressing as you might think: Special

I realize not as depressing as you might think shouts out that McKeesport really is a depressing place. It is.

When I get around to it, I will describe the exceptions to depressing, such as this fire juggler whom I saw last night while I attended Corpus Christi, an annual Downtown McKeesport event two blocks from the Blueroof Experimental Cottage where I am entering this blog post on my laptop on the kitchen table.

If you are quick, you can see me now live on the Internet blogging away at Blueroof Technologies’ Experimental Cottage–do-gooders extraordinaire so aging in place can happen with dignity and independence for:

  • Young at heart
  • Veteran
  • Civilian
  • Perfectly able or
  • Disabled like me

http://75.149.30.169:60001/CgiStart?page=Single&Language=0 [Only one view at a time: so take a metaphorical number and experience the enforced patience of becoming elderly or come back and click impulsively.]

I took the following photograph today of a side street (not that McKeesport’s Fifth Avenue is much better) to show what I mean by depressing:

In the six or so years that I have lived and traveled through the Rust Belt Of Pennsylvania, McKeesport is definitely the most depressing of Rust Belt depressing towns. McKeesport has been losing population steadily from its all time high in 1940 of 55,355 to the most current figures available– a mere 19,731 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census–an ongoing decline; this time 17 percent fewer people than 10 years ago.

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McKeesport is 19 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Double click on the photo.

See a START pin showing where I am now on Sunday morning July 1, 2012, 7:10 AM, getting ready to take a shower at the Blueroof Experimental Cottage, 400 Spring Street, McKeesport 15132.

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Hope: The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary of the English Language (Copyright 2012) defines hope as: “expectation of fulfillment or success.”

McKeesport Hope 1. Best shower for the elderly and disabled. For me, as a 64-year-old man with a spinal cord injury who cannot walk: hope in McKeesport means being able to take the best shower (safest, most satisfying) that I have taken in the 18 years of being a paraplegic: a shower I can take without assistance from a health care aide, a shower that does not put me in danger of falling posing the risk (as my neighbors back at an independent living facility at State College which I call home face on a daily basic–a risk that all too often leads to an ambulance outside my window, a trip eventually leading to Centre Crest, a nursing home where at great government expense, my neighbors die in despair).  [I am generally a cheerful guy]

Here in McKeesport is the best shower for paraplegics in the world:

When I entered the bathroom to take a shower, the lights to the bathroom were not on. As the forward wheels of my scooter crossed the beam generated by this contraption co-founder Robert Walters installed:

the lights go on. [Let there be Light.]

Meanwhile, inside the shower a motion detector is making sure that I do not fall.

Here in the shower, a motion detector watches out for me. See it. It is on the top left of the bathroom door. It looks like this:

If I fall, the detector detects no motion. If I do not get up after a period of time programmed by an expert, the walls call 911 and my family.

Actually, the voice that makes the call is a voice synthesizer located on a shelf in the laboratory in the basement. The interns who installed it had a range of voices to choose from. They chose the surprisingly sexy voice whom ever afterward is known as Amy. I can just imagine my daughters Joanna and Amelia when the lascivious voice of Amy calls to inform them their father has just fallen in the shower.

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McKeesport Hope 2. Fresh water fish are back in the Mon Monongahela River.

Now that the River is no longer polluted with the effluents caused by National Tube Company, once McKeesport’s largest employer, sadly missed because the unemployment rate here is in the double digits, fresh water fish have returned.

Signs for live fishing bait are prominently displayed. The Marina, quite pretty, is doing a booming business.

[I must stop this work in progress here. A friend just called reminding me that it is past 10 and this posting, dear subscribers and readers, promises that a return to more hope and more despair await you.]

However, July 4th is nearly here and let me close by reminding you that the pursuit of happiness is currently denied to too many of the men and women, veterans of our wars –who fought to keep us free–and their families.

Blueroof plans to build a research cottage for a veteran family to provide the kind of decent housing Blueroof has become famous for creating–a place not only of residence but of research to ensure that disabled, aging, and low-income veterans can age in place successfully and that our engineering, architecture, and architectural engineering schools can better learn how to provide designs that improve the quality of their lives.

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Words do not escape me. Rest assured, I will return–showered and ready to post and comment on photographs such as this one:

This too is McKeesport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration of the Use of Virtual Reality to Improve Housing for the Elderly and Disabled

University Park, PA.  On Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 10a.m. Penn State’s Department of Architectural Engineering and its Smart Spaces Center for Adaptive Aging in Community celebrated progress made in a coordinated effort to reduce the cost of housing for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled residents today and in the future.

The celebration took place at the virtual reality Immersive Construction (ICon) Laboratory. The celebration:

  1. Demonstrated the use of full-scale 3-D virtual models on large display screens for evaluating cost-effective designs to allow for aging in place. The animated model, based on the Blueroof  Technologies housing initiative in McKeesport, PA, is the work of graduate student Sonali Kumar. The virtual reality approach allows for an avatar to enter the wheel-chair accessible cottage and evaluate tasks such as making coffee in a kitchen to appropriately design for residents who desire housing where they can grow old without having to move to a costly institution.
  2. Allowed participants to meet the leaders of Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport, PA using a live video connection.  Blueroof is using prefabricated housing with embedded sensors for improving user interaction with their residence.  The environment can inform a resident when to take medication, monitor for falls (then, call 911 if the resident slips in the shower and does not get up), and provide televised links to medical facilities reducing routine medical care cost.
  3. Show the work of the Computer Integrated Construction Research Program, directed by John Messner, associate professor of architectural engineering,  focusing on the application of advanced computer modeling to improve the design, construction, and operation processes for buildings.
  4. Present the work of architectural engineering students  trained in using 3-D experienced-based design.  Virtual modeling is rapidly becoming an important tool for the construction industry, providing the ability to make changes in health care and other facilities before construction actually takes place.
  5. Provide an opportunity for residents of Addison Court, a State College independent living facility for elderly and disabled individuals, to see what the future will bring and serve as critics who can use their life experiences to aid in the design process.
  6. Highlight the work of  Penn State’s Smart Spaces Center, directed by Richard Behr, who leads an interdisciplinary effort to address the needs of the rapidly increasing number of baby boomer Americans who wish to age successfully in their own homes.
  7. Recognize contributions made by the Raymond A. Bowers Program for Excellence in Design and Construction of the Built Environment, the Smart Spaces Center, the Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence, and other private and public organizations working with Penn State to improve life for Pennsylvania’s elderly and disabled.
  8. Using a scooter from Amigo Mobility, Blueroof will begin to experiment on how to help residents with mobility disabilities make better use of the technology around them. The Amigo scooter will have an iPad 2 and other remote devices so residents can turn the lights on and off and perform other functions without leaving the chair.
After Florida, Pennsylvania has the highest per capita of elderly of any state in the union. Not all news about health care costs is bad news. Come learn about some of the good news.
Computer Integrated Construction Research Program:
Immersive Construction Lab (ICon Lab):
Smart Spaces Center:
Immersive Construction Lab
306 Engineering Unit C
University Park, PA 16802

Congressman Mike Doyle represents McKeesport Home of Blueroof Technologies

Mike Doyle, a Democrat in his ninth term, represents the 14th District of Pennsylvania which includes Blueroof Technologies in McKeesport.

Blueroof has developed a monitoring system for patients with autism, a subject of special concern to Rep. Doyle who is he founder and co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, also known as the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.).

Doyle has a special interest in high-speed Internet. High-speed Internet provides elderly and disabled residents of Blueroof housing the technology that establishes security protection in high crime areas as well as establishing, for example, communications and monitoring so that falls go detected and residents are able to work at home and receive remote medical attention.

The following portrait is from The Almanac of American Politics 2012 by Michael Baron and Chuck McCutcheon well worth ordering from: http://www.amazon.com/Almanac-American-Politics-2012/dp/0226038084/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1327557118&sr=1-1

“Doyle rarely seeks attention, nor has he caused much of a ruckus. He has worked to reduce foreign imports, and he pushed a bill to create a national historic site at the former U.S. Steel facilities along the Mon River. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, his focus has been on high-tech initiatives, including increased availability of broadband services in underserved areas. He has been a leading advocate of the “Do Not Call” restrictions on telephone marketers, and won passage in 2008 of a bill to make the national list permanent. During the debate over so-called cap-and-trade legislation, which would cap harmful carbon emissions but allow companies to trade on the right to pollute, he vigorously advocated the interests of steel and other Rust Belt industries, even as he sought to work out a compromise with environmentalists. When Republicans in 2011 voted to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate emissions, Doyle accused the GOP of “scaring American people” into wrongly believing that failure to curb EPA’s authority would cause gasoline prices to rise further.”

Doyle is a graduate of Penn State in University Park, PA.

State Offices

Pittsburgh, 412-390-1499.

DC Office

401 CHOB, 20515, 202-225-2135

Fax

202-225-3084

Web site

http://doyle.house.gov