Prague, October 15-17, 1987
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Better Housing! Now!
Orvar Sthen, Linköping Regional Hospital, Sweden
When we discuss the renewal of inner cities we must bear in mind that we are discussing a very time-consuming process. The building of "non-handicapping environments" may well be a topic which concerns mainly the next generation. But it is possible even in the present to combine long-range and short-range ideas so as to give the present generation non-handicapping environments. I believe that it is very important for our seminar to find such solutions and this statement is a proposal for a short-range idea which can affect many old and disabled persons. It is feasible now and can be done at low cost.
The combination of long-range and short-range ideas is not only a way of giving the present generation some non-handicapping environments. If we start today by carrying out practical, low cost ideas which can be accomplished in a short period of time, we build at the same time a platform for discussions in our communities about further development of non-handicapping environments, which cost more, and take a longer time to realize. People always understand a need in the community better if they can watch practical results being achieved. The platform for discussion for further developments is built in peoples minds in this way. So if you really want a scheme for building non-handicapping environments I am convinced that you must include short-range ideas in this scheme - also for the psychological reasons I have mentioned here.
My statement "Better Housing! Now!" is based on many years of practical experience.
In Linköping, Sweden, we started modern, advanced home care in 1962. It meant that patients who normally would have been treated in institutions for long-term care, were instead sent back to their homes. We had patients who had lived in institutions for 20 years who were sent back to their homes and were able to cope if they received modern, advanced care. So we have had 25 years experience of such work and in our city we now have 150 patients, living in their homes instead of an institution.
What did this modern, advanced care give the patients?
But we found that there was one deficiency which we could seldom alter. If the patient could not manage stairs we could only consider installation of a lift in the building. Installation of a lift is normally an expensive and time-consuming process. Many patients could not live in their flats on account of stairs and had to move to an institution. This meant that they had to give up most of their social network in the neighborhood.
In some such cases we received help from the municipal authorities in the following way. If a neighbor in the building wanted to exchange his ground-floor flat for the patients flat, this could be done. It was easy, cost the community nothing and allowed the patient to stay where he\she had a social network.
Why not systematize this idea? It could be done in several different ways. Here are two examples:
Few can have any objections to such a scheme and a greater part of the population would also, as a result, become more aware of the needs of old and disabled persons.