Therapeutic and developmental design: the relationship between spatial enclosure and impaired elder-child social interaction
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Social interaction and the availability of meaningful activities promote the physical and psychological well-being of children and older adults. The development of social interaction is closely related to physical and social environments that complement the therapeutic needs of cognitively impaired elders and the developmental needs of young children. This study examined the effects of the degree of spatial enclosure on social interaction between these two groups during physical exercise in an assisted living facility co-located with a childcare center. The multi-methodological approach allowed for triangulation and employed the following techniques: naturalistic observation, a Web-based and mail out survey, an experiment, semi-structured interviews, sequential analysis, nonparametric analysis, and content analysis. The findings of this study demonstrated that a semi-enclosed spatial plan most influenced the prosocial behavior of older adults and young children. These elder-child prosocial behaviors were likely facilitated by a perception of adequate personal space, openness, and possible spaces for prospect and refuge within the semi-enclosed spatial plan. Elder-child social interaction was positively influenced by several programmatic factors which gave participants some sense of control. These findings led to design recommendations for creating appropriate developmental and therapeutic environments for children and older adults in intergenerational care settings. Recommendations were that a satisfactory balance be maintained between openness and enclosure as these stimulate elder-child social interaction.
Seo, Min-Young (2006). Therapeutic and developmental design: the relationship between spatial enclosure and impaired elder-child social interaction. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from