March 18, 2020 // 2:06 PM

Kansas State Students Offer Post Occupancy Evaluation

Written by Juanita Fox

“Garden Spot Village is the most welcoming place I’ve ever been,” says Kansas State University Interior Design student Hannah Richardson. “The culture of the community is so different than anywhere else in the world.”

Experiencing Garden Spot Village

Hannah, along with classmates Brett LaFleur, Mikayla Adkins and Sydney Tucker, Professor Dr. Migette Kaup and Lauren Tines, a Kansas State interior design graduate working at StudioSIX5 in Austin, Texas, traveled to New Holland in early February 2020 to conduct a post occupancy evaluation of Thistledown Co-Living House. The team spent a full day interviewing the ladies who live at Thistledown. Using the notes they collected during that interactive interview, the team shared insight and new ideas with the co-living planning committee, builders and architects.

Their trip and research were funded by a grant from SAGE – The Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments, an Irma Dobkin Universal Design Grant from IFDA Educational Foundation and Garden Spot Village.

“The amount of opportunities—from the wood shop to the train room—Garden Spot is giving people opportunities to live with purpose,” says Brett.

“It gives me hope for retirement,” adds Mikayla.

Making Deep Connections

“We were briefed on what to expect—who was coming, when they were coming and what they were studying,” Ruth Dunlap says, as she reflects on the days leading up to the post occupancy evaluation.

Ruth lives at Thistledown Co-Living House with four other ladies, including Esther Courtney. The ladies were delightfully surprised when the team from Kansas State arrived.

“From the moment they walked in the door, we felt very comfortable.” Ruth says. “The professor was amazing, the students were great. Dr. Kaup led the conversation with a clear, kind direction.”

“It was amazing. Those students were so marvelous,” Esther says. “They were students on a mission. But they were very honoring and careful with their research. They were very down to earth, knowledgeable and intelligent.”

“As the students presented on Saturday morning,” Esther continues, “I thought, ‘Wow, I can see a new home, adapted with our suggestions, that better accommodates residents.’ It felt really good to be part of the process.”

“We are involved in the future,” Ruth adds.

The students presented gift bags to each of the ladies who live at Thistledown that included thank you notes, note cards and a pack of Kansas State coasters.

“Their gifts just endeared them to us even more,” Esther says.

Next steps

Over the next few months, the students will prepare a white paper documenting their scientific methodologies and analysis. They will apply to present their findings at the Environments for Aging 2021 conference. In the meantime, the co-living planning committee is taking their recommendations and considering how to apply their findings to the next cooperative living home.