The Villages as Conduits of Research and Innovation

Each Schlegel Village is much more than simply a place where people live and work. They are central community hubs that connect older adults living in the wider community; they are mentoring grounds that invite school children to learn about older generations; they host concerts and community groups in their central town squares and halls; and they are crucial hubs of research where the lived experience of caregivers and residents inform the pivotal direction of healthy aging in a changing society.

Keith Woodley, shown here during the Schlegel Olympics in
2016, plays an active role in Village Life at Tansley Woods. He
is also a keen part of the innovation team there. 

This research was always central to the vision that founder Ron Schlegel had when he first imagined the organization, and the reason why the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging is so deeply connected to each village. It’s not uncommon for villages to host researchers on a regular basis, whether they’re seeking information related to vascular health, nutrition or the role of virtual reality in dementia care, among many other subjects.  

The annual Innovation Summit, hosted by Schlegel Villages and the RIA in mid-June, was an opportunity for residents, team members, researchers and community partners to come together to discuss some of these projects and share their vision for the future. Everything from exploring the role of sexuality and intimacy in dementia care to the possibility of 3D printed pureed food to robotic pets was on table for discussion, and Tansley Woods resident Keith Woodley was there both days to absorb as much as possible.

Much of what he learned will make its way to his fellow residents through conversations over coffee or lunch or even during happy hour. He says the Summit is a wonderful way to gain a better understanding of the “whys” behind so much of what happens in the villages. With that understanding he can then help others see the same wide picture and the role seemingly innocuous research projects might have on the future of aging.     

“It certainly gives me a better understanding of the reason behind some of the things that we see happening in the villages,” Keith says.  He agrees that, at times, residents may not understand certain research commotion in the villages but when they understand the macro picture, they’re easily put at ease.

“As long as you keep it simple and communicate,” he says, “it will go through, but the communication is the tricky thing. Slow down and do it step-by-step and it all works out.”

This was the third Innovation Summit, however, and with it, the innovation teams that have sprung to life in the villages to act as conduits and sources of information for researchers have grown. Keith says they play an important role in not only informing the direction of research but also communicating the intent to those they work and live with, and he’s happy to be part of such a team.