EVANSVILLE, Ind. — University of Southern Indiana will soon add a new compact home model that was developed out of the “tiny house” craze.

A compact home, created by nationally-known aging expert Dr. Bill Thomas, will be built on or near USI’s campus over the next year. The goal of the pilot project is to create a cultural transformation related to aging in a community.

The MAGIC Project will create a Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community (MAGIC) housing model for both students and older adults. The model house in Evansville will serve as a demonstration home to showcase accessibility, smart-home connectivity and innovative modular, prefabricated construction developed by Thomas’ new Minka project.

As of now, officials said no one will live in the model home.

University officials released details on Thomas’ community project in a news release sent Monday morning. The project is a partnership with USI and the USI Foundation, with support from AARP and AARP Indiana.

The project will kick-off with design and construction of a USI MAGIC model house.

A Minka is a modular compact smart-house designed to maximize independence and well-being with a minimalist philosophy. Minkas are intended to be affordable and adapt to meet needs of people of all ages and abilities.

Thomas’ goal was to create a house that isn’t too big or too small, but “just right” for millions of people.

“I used my time in Japan and my study of its architecture to inspire a new kind of house, a compact, digitally native, modular, panelized house that is both affordable and easy to live in,” Thomas wrote in a blog post. “It seemed right to call this model the ‘Minka’ because that is the Japanese word for ‘a house for regular people.'”

The location for the pilot MAGIC model house isn’t set yet, but officials said it will be on or near the USI campus. It will be an educational environment to drive innovation for future design, functionality and connectivity of similar units that would be used to build MAGIC housing, officials said.

“We are fascinated by this extraordinary institution of public learning (USI) and this extraordinary community,” Thomas said in a news release. “As I’ve traveled the world, I’ve rarely seen its equal in terms of university and community working together in partnership. We are looking forward to an intensive, creative collaboration, which I believe is going to lead USI into a leadership position in the area of bringing younger people and older people back together at the heart of our communities and our society. The passion, foresight, hard work and diligence of this university’s founders have given us this opportunity to explore the future together.”

Thomas is no stranger to Evansville or USI.

In 2011, he was part of USI’s Mid-America Institute on Aging and Wellness conference, and last August, he was the featured speaker at the event, where he discussed “Eldertopia: Changing Aging Forever.”

In November, USI hosted Thomas’ ChangingAging Tour, which included two performances: Disrupt Dementia and Life’s Most Dangerous Game.

“On the old map, it says, ‘Aging is decline. You are diminished,'” Thomas told the Courier & Press in August. “It is about disability. That’s it. Those ideas have governed our thinking about aging for a long time. What’s new though is a world of aging where we say, ‘Aging is growth. Aging is the word you use to describe when you are no longer young.'”

Thomas is an author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician and is considered one of the foremost experts on aging and providing care for the elderly. His work focuses on changing the way people approach getting older.

Best known for his health care system innovations, he is the founder of The Eden Alternative, a global nonprofit working to improve care for older people, and is also the creator of The Green House, a reinvented vision of a nursing home. Thomas also developed the Senior ER model of care and wants to transform the acute care services provided to elders.

When Thomas worked on creating the Minka, he said in a blog post that he wondered what people really want. No matter your age, he wrote that people in any situation really want to “live life on their own terms.”

For most, he wrote, they are unable to do so with housing.

“For younger people, these barriers can prevent them from owning a home of their own,” Thomas wrote. “For older people, sustaining a big unwieldy house can be the thing that tips the scale from independence to dependence.”

The concept for a pod-type MAGIC multi-generational, inclusive community could be implemented on a university campus or in a community setting, officials said.

Thomas envisions a community where students from a variety of disciplines work, live and study in close proximity with older adults, with a focus on fostering what Thomas calls “independence together” through social engagement, healthy eating and physical activity.

Ann White, USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions dean, said in a news release that the university has been a leader in interdisciplinary healthcare strategies for years.

“We are excited about the possibilities of this unique pilot project that will bring nursing and health professions together with other disciplines like social work and engineering while incorporating research outcomes in an effort to change the way we look at aging in our society,” White said in a news release.

Thomas plans to regularly visit USI during the spring semester to be directly involved in the MAGIC process.


Source: Evansville Courier & Press, http://bit.ly/2n4OlSU


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the Evansville Courier & Press.