2012 Complete Communities Delaware Summit

November 18, 2012 at 9:27 am Leave a comment

Last week Delaware held its first Complete Communities Summit as a means to create awareness and continue planning for meeting future infrastructure needs in Delaware.  As an occupational therapy practitioner that specializes in environmental modifications, this aligns with my position on Universal Design and Livable Communities.

Our keynote, Ed McMahon from the Urban Land Institute, spoke about sustainable communities being “a place of enduring value”.  He quoted Wendell Berry stating, “if you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are”.  This aligns with the occupational therapy perspective that home (and a sense of place), is connected with one’s identity.  It is not just physical; it is psychosocial and ties to a sense of familiarity and security.

During our lunch presentation, we had the opportunity to listen to Joe Molinaro, Managing Director, Community and Political Affairs, National Association of REALTORS®, speak about place-making.  He reviewed a Venn diagram which represented Physical Form, Social Activity and Economic Prosperity as three interrelated spheres.  The amount of overlap represents the amount of congruence in these areas, with the center (overlap area) being Place.  The more overlap of these three spheres, the better the sense of place.  This quickly reminded me of both the occupational therapy PEO (Person-Environment-Occupation) model of occupational performance as well as Powell Lawton’s environmental press theory.  This diagram, regarding place, was expressing that within the framework of form, activity occurs.  That may be social activity, economic activity or even socio-economic activity.  However, a sense of place flows from emotion, or human experience.  Therefore:  Form→Activity→Emotion.  The point in this discussion was that when planning for complete communities, you need to get into people’s thinking and emotions about what is a “good place”.

This also made sense to me, as an occupational therapy practitioner, as activities (what we call occupations) are the basis of what we do; we support people, across the lifespan, to promote active engagement in meaningful and purposeful community living as safely and independently as possible.  Participation in these meaningful community activities supports emotional health and well-being and creates a network of social-connectedness.  Here is the ‘emotion’ from the ‘activities’ that is within the ‘form’.  Community as identity.

It is this cohesiveness of thinking that makes occupational therapy practitioners that specializes in environmental modifications uniquely qualified and well suited to consult with architects, planners, community agencies, as well as local, state and federal policymakers with regard to universal design for livable and complete communities.  Occupational therapy practitioners bring a unique perspective; Designers, planners, policymakers and occupational therapy practitioners are necessary pieces of the puzzle, that when assembled, are most likely to best meet client needs with regard to aging in place in livable/complete communities.

For more  information on Livable Communities, check out the Livable Communities Daily at: http://paper.li/EmpowerAbility/1337434767

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Entry filed under: Accessibility, Livable Communities, occupational therapy, Universal Design. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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