According to the UN, the elderly population not only exceeds the population of children in developed nations, but will increase more rapidly than any other demographic over the next 50 years -- in fact, it could even triple.
Although most countries deal with the elderly population through institutionalized care, whether public, as in Canada or in Great Britain, or private, as in the U.S., the quality of care is widely divergent. It’s therefore fitting - and necessary - that the physical environment’s effect on elderly care is becoming a more prominent issue for research.
One institute that is leading the way in this research is the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Institute on Aging and Environment.
At the Institute on Aging and Environment, the goal is to provide innovative strategies, not only for care services, but also for the housing and institutions that provide those services. The institute encourages research from faculty and students from areas including Architecture, Planning, Social Welfare, and Occupational Therapy; architects then use this information to help organizations provide better, more effective environments for the elderly (especially those with dementia) by evaluating, planning and programming facilities, providing design reviews, helping organizations select appropriate interior designers, and conducting final design evaluations.
Past students have studied environmental support for caregivers, the need for physical environment research in designing for the aging, designing for acute care facilities and environments, as well as urban issues in environment-behavior studies. Current students are examining the relationship between aging and the environment, social and economic outcomes for therapeutic environments, and culture-specific design environments for the elderly and cognitively impaired. Students and fellows work in either the M.Arch or Ph.D. in Architecture programs.
Of course, architecture students have a wide variety of other research opportunities as well: the Institute for Ecological Design allows students to explore and promote sustainability in design; the Historic Preservation Institute promotes adaptive reuse and preservation; and Community Design Solutions provides design and planning services for under-serviced communities. Students also have concentrations available to them: Ecological Design, Preservation Studies, and Real Estate Development. Even better, students can pursue these concentrations and areas of research at several different levels because the school offers four degrees: a Bachelor of Science, Architectural Studies (BSAS), a practice-oriented M.Arch, a post-professional M.S.Arch for specialized architectural studies, and a Ph.D.
To apply for the graduate programs, one needs to provide a statement, transcripts, GRE scores, Letters of Recommendation, and a Portfolio. Ph.D. students must also include a resume or CV, while international students must achieve a minimum TOEFL score of 100 iBT or 600 PBT. There is some financial support available that does not entail student loans, but it isn’t specific to the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. The school has over 50 full- and part-time faculty and over 800 full-time students. Tuition for resident undergraduate students is $7,309 and for graduate students it is $9,604. The numbers rise significantly for non-residents, to $17,309 and $23,630, respectively.