LAWRENCE — University of Kansas professor Dennis Domer is often cited among the leading historic preservationists in his field.
But in recent years, Domer has turned his attention to the future of aging and architecture. Specifically, he is examining the housing needs of baby boomers, that massive demographic of individuals whose sheer size requires that the marketplace and society pay attention to their preferences.
“What kinds of housing will baby boomers want when they retire?” asked Domer, a professor emeritus of American studies and director of the New Cities Initiative at KU. “Do boomers have specific housing needs or preferences? Are those needs currently being met, or will they require a new way of thinking about and designing living spaces? Nearly 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day, so these questions demand answers from architects, developers and policymakers in various fields.”
To further examine this topic, Domer will host the I-70 Corridor Conference on Interdisciplinary Aging Research Thursday, Nov. 7, and Friday, Nov. 8, at the Oread Hotel. The conference will comprise nearly 60 researchers from nine universities to consider developing a network on interdisciplinary aging research among universities along the Interstate 70 corridor. Through workshop discussions, participants will focus on two areas of research — “Eldercare Technology and Community-Based Nursing” and “Learning with Elders Where They Live” — that might provide a basis for a National Institutes of Health grant proposal.
“Part of KU’s mission is to build healthy communities,” Domer said. “We want to use this two-day conference to build the foundation for an NIH grant proposal to build a network of universities along I-70 in Kansas and Missouri that are doing this type of interdisciplinary aging research.”
Conference attendees hail from KU as well as Rockhurst University, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Washburn University, Kansas State University and Washington University in St. Louis.
The conference is supported by a Level II Strategic Initiative Grant through the Office of the Provost, awarded to Domer and his colleagues Susan Kemper, the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Psychology, and David Ekerdt, professor of sociology.
The conference is the latest component of KU’s New Cities Initiative, which was launched in 2010 to 1) investigate aging and architecture through interdisciplinary research and teaching, and 2) to partner with public and private entities to facilitate the design of intergenerational, technologically advanced communities to accommodate members of the Baby Boomer generation and subsequent generations.
“Aging is an obvious part of all our lives, but generally, we know little about it,” Domer said. “Indeed, we often fear it and pretend it has nothing to do with us. Just as aging affects us all, aging influences all academic disciplines and professions. So part of New Cities initiative’s mission is to inform people about the meanings and realities of aging an how it impacts fields such as architecture, law, psychology, nursing, computer engineering, transportation, sociology, demography, medicine, sustainability, senior living, philosophy and design.”