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Discovering Environment– Behavior Studies: A Personal Adventure

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This chapter presents a personal intellectual and professional adventure of discovery. Starting with natural curiosity and a penchant to observe the world as it is (empirically) John Zeisel was privileged to be a member of a group of lively minds who uncovered the field of Environment–Behavior (E-B) and its application to gerontology. The chapter describes the steps he climbed studying the Domestic Peace Core in the "hollers" of Eastern Kentucky, becoming academically involved with social science research, and seeking a way to apply that knowledge in design through working side-by-side with architecture students and practicing designers of all sorts. The result—discovering the common research and design development spiral some call the Zeiral. Building on this common process, he merged research and design in an applied consulting practice and in an organization—Hearthstone Alzheimer Care—that manages residential treatment for persons with dementia. The chapter describes breakthroughs including how the physical environment improves the lives of persons living with dementia, how the neurosciences help E-B practitioners and designers understand the way the physical environment affects our brains and mental processes, and how the term "ecopsychosocial" best expresses the phenomena otherwise called "nonpharmacological"—because it includes the physical environment ("eco"). The chapter explains how Zeisel's two seminal books are critical in the development of E-B as a field: "Inquiry by Design" exploring the link between design and research in an early form of "evidence-based design" and "I'm Still Here" in changing the way professionals and everyday people view dementia—as a stage in life that can be influenced for the better through ecopsychosocial approaches—a message of hope.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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