We all know how it feels when we are in a building that does not suit us quite right. The stairs are a bit too steep or the kitchen cabinets are a little out of reach. Imagine though, how it would feel if a building was so incompatible with your lifestyle that it caused you pain or you could not carry on your normal daily activities. For example, an average set of stairs can be difficult for an older person and kitchen cabinets that a younger person would consider attainable can be nearly impossible. This is a problem that many older people face. Buildings can be designed, unnoticeably different, to accommodate older people's physical, informational, and social needs. The Langdon, a private residence hall just off campus, is obviously designed around young people. We chose this building and decided to look at how compatible older people would be in a dorm like setting.
To think of an older person living in a dorm like setting seems like a very foreign concept at first. However, The Langdon would cater to some of an older person's needs. To state the obvious, there are elevators and an outdoor ramp to address physical needs. Also, St. Mary's Hospital, Meriter Hospital and, of course, the UW Hospital, are all closely located and fairly easy to get to due to the many bus routes and other transportation means in the Madison area. Certain informational needs are also met, such as signage. Above the elevator, there is a sign stating what is on each floor. This is helpful since there are nine floors altogether. Perceptual access is achieved in each of the dorm rooms by large windows that look out onto the water of Lake Mendota to the North and out onto Langdon street and towards the capitol towards the South. Social needs may also be met at The Langdon. A game room containing a pool table, ping pong table and other various games of the same sort, is located in the sub-basement, along with a computer lab, reading area, and laundry facilities. A sundeck is located on the roof, and there is also an in-building dining area in the basement that contains a nice view of the lake as well. In addition, on each residential floor, there is a lounge with a television, table, and sofas, which makes a nice place to relax or study. The lobby at the entrance of the building can also be used as a convenient gathering or meeting place.
Despite these positive aspects, there is still some doubt that The Langdon would be a suitable environment for older people. Starting with physical needs again, there are not any handicap accessible rest rooms on any of the residential floors. There is one on the first floor only. Another feature that could possibly be problematic to an older person is that some of the parking spots at the Langdon are located in the back of the building (See figure A for section view). This would not normally be a problem; however, the building is located on a fairly steep hill so walking up it, to the entrance of the building, may be tougher for the older person. In addition to these points, living on Langdon Street in general may be quite stressful because of the above average noise level and the everyday busyness of the street. Informational needs for the older person have also been neglected at The Langdon. The sign above the elevator, as mentioned earlier, though useful in it's content, it is smaller print and therefore harder for an older person to read. Another problem is that all the floors look alike. As you step off the elevator, you are faced with two choices; a hallway to the right or left, each looking the same. This can be confusing enough for a younger person. With little architectural differentiation, no signage on the individual floors, and a poor plan configuration (see figure B) it is a difficult building to accomplish way finding in. Another negative factor for older residents is that it is not a very private environment. For instance, you can easily hear people in the hall, and they too can hear you. Also, community bathrooms are all that are