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2022 Deb Mitchell Research Grant Awarded

Children and adults representing a range of ages play and picnic in the common space of a community development


The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is pleased to announce the 2022 recipient of our $25,000 research grant.

The LAF Research Grant in Honor of Deb Mitchell is awarded annually to support a research project that is relevant and impactful for the professional practice of landscape architecture.

This year's winning proposal is Engagement by Design: Intergenerational Communities to Promote Social Equity and Healthy Aging in Place. Working in both mixed-age and age-restricted communities near Austin, Texas, principal investigators Chanam Lee and Sinan Zhong will utilize expert interviews, focus groups, and surveys to identify essential physical elements and features of intergenerational communities and their associations with intergenerational interactions, age-related social equity, and health among older adults and children.

Findings from this research will help to fill gaps in knowledge about how to design for both the individual health benefits and the larger societal benefits of intergenerational communities. The primary output will be a series of Intergenerational Community Assessment Tool (iCAT) toolkits that will include community-scale and site-scale assessment tools and checklists that provide practical guidance for designing (and retrofitting) mixed-age communities. As part of a larger research trajectory, this 18-month study will also support the pursuit of additional grant funding to continue this work.

"With the pandemic shining a spotlight on issues of mental health, social isolation, and age-related vulnerability, this research topic is very timely. Providing better support for an aging population and intergenerational interaction is a less-studied aspect of design and planning,” said Michael Johnson, a member of the LAF Board of Directors and Research Committee and Principal/Urban Design Practice Co-Director at SmithGroup, which augmented the generous bequest from Debra Mitchell, FASLA to establish the grant. “With the potential for findings that are highly useful to professional practitioners, this proposal represents an emerging area where landscape architects can take a leading role."

LAF is pleased to support this important work and its potential to create stronger, healthier, and more resilient communities.


Project Abstract

Population aging is a global demographic trend that has led to many societal challenges across the economic, socio-cultural, medical, and public health sectors. Intergenerational communities can help address some of these challenges by bringing mutual benefits to older adults and younger generations. However, scientific evidence that can guide how to create such communities is limited. This research will identify key elements of intergenerational communities and their multi-level benefits. It will be conducted in three phases: (1) expert interviews about intergenerational communities/interactions, (2) focus groups/interviews and surveys among older adults and children in age-mixed versus age-restricted communities to compare social and health benefits between the two, and (3) research translation for professionals and policymakers. The main product will be Intergenerational Community Assessment Tool (iCAT) toolkits with a checklist of essential design features for intergenerational communities and sites.

Principal Investigators

Sinan Zhong, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and with the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M University. Her research interests lie at the intersection between community design and healthy aging.
Chanam Lee, PhD, is a Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and Founding Director of Design Research for Active Living at Texas A&M University. Her expertise is in active living research, a transdisciplinary area that deals with environmental and policy approaches to promote physical activity and healthy living.

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.