Today, a program outside Buffalo is attempting to do just that. Based on the same principles that drove Mervin Kelly a half-century before, a whole panoply of service providers are collaborating to build a state-of-art-facility they have deemed a "Town Square for Aging," Designed to provide one-stop shopping for the families of elderly members of the community, the building's long-term goals are much more ambitious. Designers hope that the new facility will act like the long hallways at Bell Labs: breaking through the stovepipes to get the web of different disciplines talking to one another on the way to grab a mid-afternoon snack.
Whatever the state of American innovation today, one thing is clear: The world of aging has remained mired in patterns established decades in the past. The story of Bell Labs makes clear that collaboration points the way to a new infrastructure of care. In an age when dire fiscal projections suggest that tough choices are inevitable, we should take that lesson to heart. Imposing the Bell Labs model on the challenge of aging offers a beacon of hope for the future.