Creating A Virtual Integrated Village
Professor Dennis Domer, University of Kansas

Professor Dennis Domer, University of Kansas
The Technology Research Group
New Cities Long Life Communities Initiative

The goal of our research is to develop a prototype intergenerational long life community. This community will attract both aging Baby Boomers, of whom more than 80,000,000 will reach retirement age within the next twenty years, and other age groups. Our integrated online and real-time community will promote active and healthy lifestyles, reduce healthcare costs, assist residents in entering “encore” careers, promote sustainability, enable residents to remain in the community when age might otherwise make this problematic, provide residents with opportunities for further education, promote community involvement, promote virtual and real-time access to cultural institutions and the arts, and assist residents in maintaining family ties.

The Technology Research Group, a part of the New Cities Long Life Communities Initiative (NCLLCI), has been working for the past year to develop a conceptual model of a fully integrated virtual and real-time system for a prototype long life community. To achieve this goal we have put together an interdisciplinary team to develop new products and services. Each member of the team plays two roles: as a specialist and as group member encouraged to critique others’ ideas. We are creating a process that is integrative of talents and specialties across the University and that is designed to foster public/private partnerships.

Within the last decade gerontologists and senior housing specialists have begun to experiment with what has been called the “virtual retirement village” concept. This concept is one that envisages the use of the Internet and Internet service and goods providers to enable seniors to remain in their existing single-family homes. We plan to carry this concept several steps further and to utilize ubiquitous technologies to enrich the lives of people who move into purpose-built long life housing communities.  We call it the “Virtual Integrated Village” (VIV). We will create a technologically integrated living environment that will enhance the lives of residents and other community members.

There are a number of aspects of the Virtual Integrated Village concept that are central to the community we envision.  First, the VIV would be available to all residents in the housing development as part of their basic service package. Residents would also have the option to have enhanced services as part of their basic VIV subscription through additional charges. Second, the central processing facility used to provide security and remote health monitoring would be part of the VIV.  The VIV would include other functions such as:

  • Basic entertainment, communication, and social networking services for community residents;
  • Virtual participation in community events as well as whole community meetings to discuss and decide issues of community concern;
  • Support for the rapid growth of Internet-based distance learning and adult-oriented lifelong learning programs, and increased access to cultural and artistic programs and cultural institutions;
  • Assistance to community members with transportation, shopping, community and religious activities, and scheduling share cars and guest housing for family members;
  • Availability of nutritional and healthy and active lifestyle information for community members.

Our purpose is to design an affordable and sustainable long life housing community that will seamlessly link smart technologies into residents’ homes and transport to enhance community members’ lives. For example, medical diagnostic sensors may be installed both in homes and cars to monitor the health of community members. Second, solar energy panels will provide supplemental energy to residences and provide energy for residents’ cars. Third, central garaging units equipped with charging stations will be available to residents to house and charge their own cars, but, also, will be used to provide a fleet of  “share cars.” Fourth, the integrated online system will be used to provide virtual access to art spaces and cultural institutions otherwise unavailable to some residents. The integration of transportation and housing smart technologies can provide significant cost-savings for residents, increased security and health monitoring, increased educational and cultural opportunities for residents, and increased environmental sustainability for the community as a whole.

One of the most important of the technologies available for long life housing is that which permits remote health monitoring of community residents. At present there are a wide range of such technologies available for incorporation into units, including sensors that provide real time readings of a resident’s metabolic functions. Such devices can also provide enhanced security for residents in case of fall, unconsciousness, or serious medical mishap. Other emerging technologies, such as bathroom displays coupled with RFID devices and “talking” medication containers can improve patient compliance with prescriptions.

A central data facility will be established either in or adjacent to a stand-alone medical facility. In this way, a medical professional will have access streamed medical information from residences on an as needed basis. By using “plug and play” sensors as residents age or become ill, they could have their in-home diagnostic technologies upgraded easily with a minimum of disruption and could contract for increased services. A central purpose of the health and wellness functions of the VIV is to lengthen the period in which residents are able to remain in their homes on their own and avoid the need for assisted living facilities. In this, the VIV concept differs profoundly from current continuing care retirement communities.

* * * * *

About Professor Denis Domer >> Dennis Domer manages the New Cities: Long Life Communities interdisciplinary initiative on aging and the built environment at the University of Kansas and directs the Boomer Futures Think Tank. The initiative, now two years old, is a public-private partnership in search of new housing paradigms for the Baby Boomer generation, their children, grandchildren, and friends. 

Professor Domer is an inter-disciplinarian by nature, having taught architectural history, American Studies, historic preservation, museum studies, urban planning, western civilization, and German for almost 40 years. He has chaired four academic departments and served as acting dean and associate dean of architecture for 20 years. He was appointed Clay Lancaster Distinguished Professor of Historic Preservation and later Helen Abel Chair of Historic Preservation at the University of Kentucky where the also led the Center for Historic Architecture and Preservation. He has retired twice but is now again at the University of Kansas.


Share | Print
Posted in: Community Engagement, Design for Aging, Health + Wellness, Print, Technology
  • Support AAF