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Lorraine Hiatt, Environmental Gerontologist, Honored as the 2023 Changemaker at Environments for Aging in Charlotte


View the 2023 Changemaker Award ceremony video here.

Part mad scientist, part vigilant crusader. For Lorraine Hiatt every project is her laboratory, a demonstration of what is possible. Armed with her belief that the environment can increase the capabilities of aging adults to lead richer lives, she has been and remains a compelling Changemaker.

No one had really thought through the ways in which aging adults perceived their environments the way Lori had; that environments can either boost or diminish their user’s capabilities. And that a re-focus was needed on design that optimized those capabilities, promoting mobility, vision, hearing, touch and balance.

Lori Hiatt is an environmental gerontologist who has spent the last 50 years exploring ways that innovations in design can release the potential of older people. She has conducted on-site consulting work on over 800 projects in 47 states throughout the U.S.

In the mid-1960’s, Lori was inspired through Cornell’s Design and Environmental Analysis program to study aging and conducted live-in research of elders and staff in New York homes for aging.

She moved to Minneapolis for an NIMH grant on memory care and worked on the first HUD sponsored CO-OP for elders in Edina. She returned to New York City and the American Foundation for the Blind, where she led a White House conference on Vision and Aging. And she earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology from City University of New York.

Her work spans the continuum of care, from the earliest decentralized, neighborhood skilled nursing facilities in Minnesota and Florida, to New Courtland’s affordable mixed-use apartments in New York, the award-winning Parker Life in New Jersey; and recent transformational work at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Long before it became a priority, she demonstrated an amazing ability to capture the “resident experience” and “staff voice” in design.

She has been recognized individually – with the AIA’s Pioneer in Housing Award, the first Peter Drucker Elder Care Design Award for Management Innovations, and the Hammerman Award for Design Innovation from the American Association of Homes of the Aging. And as a team member with project citations from AIA, EFA, SAGE and Contemporary Long Term Care.

Lori has fearlessly rallied for changing the rules that shape environments for older adults. She’s performed regulatory and policy work for the VA, AIA, ADA, Construction Standards Advisory Group and more. And she was a consultant on the first VA CLC Design Guide.

She has been a jury member for numerous peer review and design competitions and a fixture at the Environments for Aging Conference, as a long-time member of the program design team and the design jury.

Her plethora of books, published articles and contributions run the gamut of topics and she has delivered hundreds of talks. No one presents with the same level of energy and enthusiasm – no one.

Lori co-founded the AIA’s Design for Aging “Knowledge Community” and was a founding Advisory Board member – one of the first non-architects.

And while most of her teaching goes on in the field, she’s taught at Harvard Graduate School of Architecture and Design and NYU.

Lori has literally helped to create and continues to refine an industry that was little understood when she entered it. As our demographics have driven senior living and care to the forefront of our future, Lori continues to serve, to innovate, and to put residents and staff first in her every endeavor, making every project as great as it can be, and driving change from the inside out.

“For 50 years Lori has been a force to be reckoned with in this industry,” observes Debra Levin, Hon. FASID, EDAC, President and CEO of The Center for Health Design. “doing the work that others don't always have the courage or energy to take on. It's rare we encounter this intense level of passion, dedication and sheer drive she has brought to bear on the life and care of older adults, their families and caregivers.” 




The 2023 Environments for Aging Conference + Expo was held at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Click here to view the Changemaker Award Video Presentation.


The Changemaker Award Sponsor since 1999: