Citizen Architect Profile: Doug Gallow

Doug Gallow, City of Cincinnati AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, Advisory Council Member

Firm and Role: Lifespan Design Studio, Co-founder, Principal

What is the purpose of the organization that you are involved with? 

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities targets improvements in eight domains that influence the health and quality of life for all as we age. Communities participating in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities commit to improving their livability through an assessment of needs, development of an action plan, implementation of new projects and programs, and ongoing assessment – all with the involvement of older residents and other key stakeholders. The focus areas are: Outdoor spaces and buildings; Transportation; Housing; Social participation; Respect and social inclusion; Civic participation and employment; Communication and information; and Community support and health services.

Why did you choose to get involved? 

Lifespan Design Studio is a specialty architectural firm focused on design-for-aging and universal design. Our mission is to create environments that provide real accessibility and enhanced user-friendliness to as many as possible, going far beyond the minimum requirements of the ADA. The goal of The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities to influence the health and quality of life offered me an opportunity to serve the Cincinnati community to this end.   

How does your experience as an architect contribute to the organization? 

Architects are problem solvers. Lifespan Design Studio brings architecture and gerontology together. I understand how the built environment can broadly impact health and quality of life in the eight domains of focus. Age-friendliness in community is about far more than physical accessibility and curb cuts. I see positive outcomes time and time again in communities where we work to support a broader definition of inclusivity and aging-friendliness.

How has serving in this role benefits you as an architect? 

I have always viewed my practice as advocacy. Although none of us like to admit it, we are all aging. Aging is something we do from our first breath to our last. Those who are impacted by our designs are always changing. If the built environment in the community does not seamlessly allow these changes to occur, the built environment “handicaps” people needlessly. This opportunity to observe how the community and its residents react to these challenges, and participate in finding solutions, makes me a better architect. 

How much time and effort does your role require? 

This Advisory Council had an initial kick off meeting in November of 2020, followed by another meeting in December, each of these being virtual and lasting approximately 2 hours. The goal is to meet quarterly throughout the first year. It is expected that some sub-committees may be formed to focus on the domains which will result in intermediate meetings between the quarterly ones. After the first year it is expected that a similar process will occur during year two.  

Would you encourage other architects to get involved in similar organizations? If so, why? 

As architects we are involved on a daily basis addressing the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Involvement beyond our offices is a natural extension of this stewardship. I think there is much that architects can bring to a discussion. Being involved outside of our jobs also exposes us to other issues and people that we may not encounter on a regular basis expanding our vantage point. I have found great satisfaction in advocacy and encourage others to find a way to get involved.

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Are you interested in getting more involved with your community? Check out AIA Ohio’s Finding Your Voice advocacy series or come to one of AIA Cincinnati’s Local Advocacy Working Group meetings (second Thursday each month at 8:30 am on Zoom).

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