Victor Regnier, a professor with a unique joint appointment at the USC School of Architecture and the USC Davis School of Gerontology, is heading to Portugal for his second Fulbright Research Award studying housing and community settings for an aging population.
Regnier, an Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Distinguished Professor, received his first Fulbright grant in 1992 and analyzed supportive housing models in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands. His work resulted in three books and through his consulting, the development of innovative assisted-living projects throughout the United States. He is one of three USC professors so far in 2014 to receive Fulbright awards.
Exploring ways for housing and services to assist the aging frail to become more independent is of paramount concern to families.
“Portugal has one of the world’s highest percentage of residents over the age of 65. It’s 50 percent higher than the United States,” Regnier said. “In addition, the country has one of the lowest percentages of population under the age of 17. The country is not well positioned to support a burgeoning aging population.”
The professor was asked by the graduate program at the architecture school at The Catholic University of Portugal at Viseu to apply for the Fulbright. This fall, he will be lecturing there on housing design and policy, as well as the need for non-institutional purpose-built housing for frail seniors. In the spring, he will work with design studio students on housing projects that take mental and physical impairments of the elderly into consideration. He will also visit and assess several projects for the elderly in Lisbon and the country’s south coast.
“Like many Southern European and Asian countries, Portugal has relied heavily on family support for the elderly, but this is less likely to occur in the future due to young people leaving their rural hometowns for urban jobs,” Regnier said. “So exploring ways for housing and services to assist the aging frail to become more independent is of paramount concern to families.”
A burden on public sector spending
Governments and policymakers often see only one alternative, he said, which is to build more nursing homes and hospitals.
“This is both impractical and an extraordinary burden on public sector spending,” Regnier said. “The world is on a collision course where aging demographics and current institutional building practices will eventually bankrupt many societies.”
In addition to producing books and scholarly articles, Regnier as a practicing architect has consulted on more than 400 building projects in 38 states, Canada, Germany and England. More than 50 of these projects have won design awards.
At USC Architecture and USC Davis, he teaches a seminar on purpose-built housing and community settings for the elderly. For the past 20 years, he also has taught graduate design studios and a unique and popular class (“Great Houses of Los Angeles”) that involves curatorial tours of 10 historically significant early to mid-20th century houses.