Challenge #4: An Academy of Life
Ageing of the population is a global phenomenon. With improved living conditions comes longer life expectancy and a lower birth rate. Despite this demographic change, an open discourse between young and old on the opportunities and challenges of ageing is not yet taking place. This dialogue could include options for cross-generational knowledge transfer, new concepts for retirement and sex differences, as well as the mismatch between ever-growing retirement expenses financed by an ever-smaller working population.
The Fužine Retirement Home challenged designers to explore ways in which seniors, with their rich life experience and knowledge, can still contribute to society.
Rethinking Retirement / Academy of Life is a design experience and ethnographic research project. It consists of a set of surveys, spatial interventions and props designed to trigger reflections on retirement and ageing.
The project is presented in two spaces. The first, at MAO, is an informative and speculative entry to rethink norms and preconceptions of retirement. The second, at the Fužine Retirement Home, is an introduction to a possible scenario of retirement—life in a community centre. Through various channels for direct and indirect engagement with the residents, the idea is to open the centre up and create opportunities for intergenerational exchange, discovery of knowledge and life experiences of the elderly, and to explore the subject of retirement first hand.
Guendalina Ballerini (Italy) completed her MA at the Faculty of Architecture in Florence. She is currently working as a freelance architect, dealing with building design and construction phases.
Rebecca Carrai (Italy) is an architect, PhD researcher (KU Leuven University) and visiting scholar at the AA School of London. After working for the Danish firm BIG in Copenhagen, she graduated with honours at the Faculty of Architecture in Florence. She joined the research department of the architectural practice Archea Associati, while working as a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Architecture.
Natalia Skoczylas (Germany) is an event manager, freelance journalist, and political scientist, and is involved in the arts. She is currently working on several projects as a community manager and building a series of events discussing relations between arts and place in Berlin, that will compare lessons, challenges and hacks.
Elizaveta Strakhova (Russia) is a spatial practitioner. She has an MA in interior architecture from the Studio for Immediate Spaces at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. She experiments with formats of social gatherings and small-scale space-making as instant ways of critically responding to a variety of contexts and implementing and testing scenarios and structures for alternative development of landscapes.
Barbara Peterca (Slovenia) is an interior designer. She studied at the Faculty for Textile and Fashion Design in Ljubljana. As a fashion designer, she launched her own label, barbara, for handwoven products and then the label barbar for men’s underwear. Currently she has her own interior design studio and specializes in textile interior design.
Kathrina Dankl is a designer and researcher. After her training in industrial design, she completed a doctorate in design anthropology at the Vienna University of Applied Arts and has since combined teaching, research, and design practice. Studio Dankl sees design as a sociocultural investigation with a clear goal: a product, a service, and an intervention that makes the future debatable. Kathrina is currently an associate professor for welfare design at Denmark’s Kolding Design School; her studio work focuses on narrative, cultural heritage, and co-creating history.
Monika Šparl has been employed at the Fužine Retirement Home since 2007. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Arts, after which she received her current employment. In 2010, she created the strategy of the innovative day center project Fužine Activity Center (CAF)—a center for socializing and activities for the elderly—in cooperation with the Municipality of Ljubljana, and she became the manager of the center. She devotes special attention to recognizing the needs of members of the Fužine Activity Center.
Monika Vrhovnik Hribar holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Health Sciences. She is a senior consultant at the Fužine Retirement Home, where she is involved in occupational therapy. Her work and professional knowledge help residents learn daily activities, especially when they cannot independently perform self-care activities, such as learning how to use orthopedic aids. She is especially interested in dementia, and thus she also helped design and train staff in the home’s Concept for Working with Residents with Dementia.
Matija Puškarič received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Health Sciences. After completing his apprenticeship, he started working at the Fužine Retirement Home as an occupational therapist. His objective is to help residents quickly adapt to their new living environment and create a life in the home with the highest level of independence. With the help of his professional associates, he manages, plans, and organizes all activities, events, and projects. He is also engaged with various educational institutions, where he talks about occupational therapy, and he mentors trainees in occupational therapy.
The Fužine Activity Center (CAF) is a socializing and activity center for the elderly. The center began its work in 2010 as part of the Fužine Retirement Home in Ljubljana. In cooperation with the Municipality of Ljubljana, it promotes socializing and activities for the elderly. It enables retirees from nearby and more distant surroundings to become involved in various activities, socialize, and establish new social networks. It helps strengthen individuals’ power, develop a sense of belonging and usefulness, and develop mutual assistance. After people retire, it helps them overcome distress and feelings of uselessness and loneliness, which occur after termination of employment or after the loss of loved ones. The program is also intended for all those that want to take care of their mental and physical health through their own activity, and in this way contribute to a better quality of life and to enriching creative life power during retirement.