Nationally renowned aging expert Dr. Bill Thomas unveiled today the first-of-its-kind robotic prefabricated Minka house built on the University of Southern Indiana (USI) campus in less than a week featuring universal design accessibility and advanced manufacturing technology. The Minka will serve as a model house, simulation lab for USI students and a building block for creating age-friendly communities.
The USI Minka model house is the culmination of a year-long “MAGIC” (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) pilot project supported by the USI Foundation and AARP that is kickstarting a cultural transformation related to aging and community design. It builds off Dr. Thomas’ near 30 years of innovation as founder of The Eden Alternative global non-profit, The Green House Project, Senior Emergency Room and ChangingAging.org.
“This Minka house represents history in the making,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “This exciting pilot project is bringing together a variety of academic disciplines on our campus to work with Dr. Thomas and our community in innovative ways. USI is proud to be a leader in exploring new approaches and solutions to the broader societal issues of aging and independent living for all people.”
Minka, launched in 2017 by Dr. Thomas, is now working to design and build MAGIC communities with partners in Evansville, as well as in Clearfield, Penn., Loveland, Colo., and other communities. Minka’s prefabricated housing system was created in collaboration with Denmark-based AGJ Architects to develop a globally-affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.
In Pennsylvania, a vacant elementary school and 23 acres of woodland purchased by the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) this month will be transformed into an intergenerational dementia-friendly community featuring Thomas’ Minka and the MAGIC model inviting people of all ages to live together.
The Clearfield AAA partnered with Dr. Thomas’ New York-based Minka and AJGA to develop the 60-home “Minka Village of Hope.” The development will include a mix of single family and multi-family Minka homes featuring smart home technology, universal design accessibility and will repurpose the schoolhouse into a mixed-use commercial and arts engagement center.
To create places where people living with dementia can thrive, Dr. Thomas says “we must build communities that embrace people of different ages and abilities, rather than putting them in institutions just because they are frail or forgetful.
“I spent decades fighting to make the long-term care system better and created innovative alternatives such as The Green House,” Thomas said. “But I’ve also learned that people want real communities, not facilities.”
The Girard Goshen Elementary School, closed since 2013, will be converted into a community center featuring a mix of retail, health services and local creative arts engagement programs designed with community participation to help reconnect people living with dementia to their community, said Clearfield County AAA director Katherine Gillespie.
“Our families are devastated by skyrocketing rates of Alzheimer’s disease because our communities quite frankly are not designed to include them and help them thrive,” said Clearfield County AAA director Kathleen Gillespie. “We’re partnering with Dr. Thomas to build the Village of Hope to give families hope that people living with dementia can participate and enjoy life when they live in a community that welcomes and includes them.”
Clearfield community stakeholders embraced an emphasis on arts engagement in the first of a series of MAGIC participatory design workshops led by Dr. Thomas’ team in August 2018.
“Each person lives with a unique set of physical and cognitive abilities, and every one of us needs to use those abilities to their fullest extent. The creative arts offer some amazing pathways for building relationships and communities,” said Thomas, who launched Minka after spending four years touring North America with a theatrical production called the ChangingAging Tour that has performed in 130 cities. Sponsored by AARP, the tour uses theatrical arts and participatory design to support age-friendly and dementia-friendly community development in the U.S. and Canada.
During each stop, Dr. Thomas’ team convened focus group listening sessions and collected responses from more than 4,000 individuals asked to share their hardest questions about aging. More than half of all questions related to housing insecurity and inadequate community, said Minka COO Kavan Peterson, co-founder and director of ChangingAging. Peterson works nationally on age friendly community development and leads Minka’s M.A.G.I.C. programs.
Both the USI MAGIC project and the Village of Hope draw on the Tour to support people of all ages and abilities to overcome the social stigma associated with aging or memory loss, Peterson said.
“For decades the only story we’ve heard about aging is one of loss, decline and despair,” Peterson said. “But there is a new story. It is a story of connection, expression, joy and growth. It is a story told by people living with dementia, by those who love them, and by people of all ages who want to live in diverse and welcoming communities.”
This article does a great job talking about the Minka (MAGIC) house and how USI is working to explore new ways to broaden the issues of aging and independent living. This would be for all people of different ages and abilities. I think this is great thing to be working on in the community.
Nelle B. Williams says
I am very interested in this idea here in Kentucky. I hope we can get people on board to modify their concept of where to live as we age. Thanks for the information. I read about this in Parade Magazine in July! Great concept!
ELZ Residence says
The Minka will serve as a model house, simulation lab for USI students and a building block for creating age-friendly communities.
Carol Hadley says
Would love to see a senior Minka community in Western/Central New York State. Love the concept and the cute Minka home.
I am an Aging 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging and the innovative technologies and possibilities of MINKA make me overly excited. As a community, we tend to push asside elder individuals and not pay attention to the needs that they desire. Aging comes with many changes and challenges that are important to accomate. This new innovative technology will allow the older community to not only age in place, but increase intergenterational connections. In the video, Dr. Thomas states that “aging was thought of as a process of loss and decline,” although after taking part in this innovative research his opinion changed to aging being the “protection and extrension of independence”. By coming together as a community and changing our opinons of aging like these individuals did, we can only better the aging experience.
interested in learning more details about modules, units, design options, site prep requirements for application in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area.
Jonathan Kramer says
I have shared this idea with many people, and have yet to encounter an unfavorable reaction to this idea. People love it! I have suggested this idea to authorities at Ithaca Mall, NY and The Village of Lansing, NY. They tell me that they like the idea.
Fossil fuel free communities for Baby Boomers Residents would get around on individual electric propelled devices.
EV pods could be “parked” in one’s bedroom. Once the user transfers into the EV pod, they depart to their desired destination.
Living units could be constructed on the top floor of vacancy plagued shopping malls. The live in mall would also provide tremendous commercial opportunity for many goods and services, such as convenient access to diverse restaurants and health care offices. A resident could go to a different eatery every night of the week if they so desired.
It is a win/win/win/win/win situation for everyone, including residents, merchants, property owners, governments, and civilizations alike.
Veronica McGee says
My name is Veronica McGee. My husband and I have been working towards a MINKA type dream for parents who are aging with adult children with physical disabilities. A visitability community where we all live and learn together and is also completely integrated and inclusive for all ages and isNOT A FACILTY We live in Birmingham, AL. We have stakeholders in place. Would it be possible to schedule a time to talk or meet with your team about our plans?
Marsha Bond says
Do you anticipate any developments in the Southeast?
Thank you for reaching out, its been a long time since I’ve heard from changingaging, tho I’ve heard about Minka along the way. Having just watched all the videos linked to the email, I’m so encouraged about the future of blooming elders!
Here in Austin, TX, we’ve been working on a multi-generational community in an urban setting which includes not only a number of optional residential opportunities, but adds space for restaurants, shops, offices, a hotel and community center.
We’d truly seek to connect again with Dr. Thomas, having met with him twice when ChangingAging was on tour in Austin.
Blessings on the work being done to educate and inspire our culture’s social awareness once again to the wealth residing in our elders!
Shermie Schafer says
Looks and sounds absolutely lovely and life-changing for residents! Especially liked the diagram of proposed village. Blessings on each of you for your dedication to this progress; may all your wishes come true.
Hello, I am a student from a class in AGING 320 at the Erickson School of Aging. After reading the blog post on the Minka Magic Homes I support the project. This is because I believe our society often neglect the concept of universal design when it comes to the aging population. This can be due to corporate greed in which companies are not willing to utilize universal design in their product because of cost. The Minka project shows that the implementation of universal design for the aging population can be feasible.
Moreover, universal designs was thought in our class and there was discussion of the importance. In a book titled Health Promotion and Aging by David Haber, there is discussion of universal design for homes such as grab bars, counters with stripes and pull down seats in a shower (Pg. 253). Haber indicated that such universal design assist elder with dementia, Alzheimer and prevent fall.
Haber, D. (2016). Health promotion and aging: Practical applications for health professionals (7th ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing, LLC.
Hello, I am a student from a class in AGING 320 at the Erickson School of Aging. After reading the blog post on the Minka Magic Homes I support the project. This is becuase I believe our society often neglect the concept of universal design when it comes to the aging population. This can be due to corporate greed in which companies are not willing to utilize universal design in thier product becuase of cost. The Minka project shows that the implimentation of universal design for the aging population can be feasible.
Are there any plans for the Pacific N.W, Seattle in particular?
Kavan Peterson, Editor, ChangingAging.org says
Hi Jay! Kavan here, editor-in-chief and Seattle resident! Yes, I personally am dedicated to building Minka MAGIC communities in the PNW. We have a ways to go to ramp up to develop in the west coast but I am already talking to interested partners. Stay tuned!
michelle driscoll says
Please include me in updates on future communities in the PNW. I have worked in the eldercare field for over 24 years and am only too aware of the negative effect living in a nursing home has on the residents.
My Minka is a very exciting concept.
Please include me in any updates of the Minka project in the PNW.
Suzy and John Shukwit says
We are very interested in Minka communities. Please keep us updated, if possible, on any plans you may have or may know about. We are open to relocating — whether it be in Seattle or somewhere else in the US. We’ve considered the North West, Texas and North Carolina so you can see we’re pretty open! We’re currently living in Tucson AZ and are looking at retirement in a couple of years (at the most).
Doug Laws says
I live in Houston, Texas.
To whom do I speak with regarding the Victoria, Texas project?
Xaviera Chambers says
I have the same question! Tell me about Victoria
Kavan Peterson, Editor, ChangingAging.org says
Hi Doug — You can email me at kavan AT myminka DOT com and I would happy to share information.
Kavan (Editor of ChangingAging.org and COO of Minka).
What a glorious day! I enjoyed all of the speeches, but of course, Dr. Bill’s inspiring talk hit home with me. Congratulations to Kavan and all who worked so hard to make this happen. Can’t wait to follow the Pennsylvania project!
Kavan Peterson, Editor, ChangingAging.org says
Thanks Elva 🙂 We’re making progress!