A Mall for All: Ramping up Accessibility

disabled - elderly

Maybe you have a frail, disabled, or otherwise vulnerable parent as I do. He has attended to your well-being, perhaps beyond the number of years necessary – of course, you want to do everything you can to ensure his happiness. You guide her care, make sure she gets to her doctor appointments, and provide entertainment and activities when she is willing and able. Unfortunately, there are times when your parent may need you to help run errands or to just get out for some fun, but other obligations take you elsewhere. What if a mall-like venue existed that offered diverse services to meet the needs and wishes of your loved ones, including accessible healthcare, dining options, and socialization opportunities? Some cities take special care to address the needs and interests of vulnerable individuals. According to a 2012 Forbes survey, Hong Kong is the world’s sixth most popular city for international tourism. Notably, the city has made an extraordinary effort to help its disabled citizens and tourists travel and enjoy shopping, scenery, dining, and major attractions. Imagine a one-stop shop in Minnesota with such conveniences as urgent and routine healthcare, a fitness center with necessary accommodations, an Internet browsing area, investment advice, discussion groups, artistic activities, sporting events, grocery and gift shopping, even small business assistance, all with physical and emotional supports a vulnerable population may require. For example, transport would be available for the least mobile of patrons to and from nearby or adjoining apartments. Although available services would cater to needs specific of an underserved population, the inclusive atmosphere and facilities would welcome visitors with a wide range of abilities from completely dependent to able-bodied. 800px-Disabled_parking_place Many vulnerable folks are more than willing to retain some level of independence to meet their daily needs; however, our infrastructure must do more to catch up with this need – and quickly. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that by 2025, the number of people in the U.S. aged 65 or older is expected to double, while the number of working adults and children will increase by just 15 percent. As the older population grows and the younger population shrinks, venues, such as malls with built-in supports for at-risk individuals who may have little or no back-up care, will increasingly become not just a nicety, but a necessity. Mom and Dad need us now more than ever and, surely, we’ll need like support in the future. The time is right for creating and sustaining a gathering place for senior, disabled, and other vulnerable individuals that can help enrich our loved ones’ quality of life as well as secure our own piece of mind.   Photos via: Dominik Golenia -- TdMalone  

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