Invasion: Interpersonal Distances

The skyscraper buildings seen on television are the towering empires of the new industry. Think of how men and machines work together to create these establishments. From a vacated place springs another establishment wherein sooner or later will be filled with people before and after its construction. Back to the times of the good old carpenter – the saw swinging its teeth, cutting through wood and the hammer beating down nails. To pulley the roof up where a fellow carpenter waves his hands.

These tedious processes further developed and learned through the science of architecture. Homes were the first sprouts of the efforts in this field of study. There was already the need to be sheltered.

The renovated People’s Park was now as colorful as my grandmother’s garden, where I used to remember seeing blooming flowers of different kinds. Many people walk about. I was strolling alone hoping that somehow I could escape the pressures of school work. I needed time alone that is. But there were many people there. It’s funny why I didn’t consider this all the while when the park’s name slapped it on my face. People, yes I remember Lara Bernadette C. Avila’s study. Then and there I thought I had gotten away.

What made her research interesting is that she weaved sentimentality with the technicality of her field of study. Her degree of Architecture- in precise measurements of construction and pricing of the materials to be used- her study introduced a fresher new ambience and solution for the unlikely modes of invasion of the elderly in Davao City.

Invasion. After a few minutes of walking, I decided to sit on a bench. I was in the center of the whole area of the park. Imagining the top view of the park, I saw ant-like figures moving about each other. They reminded me of the dots that were plotted on the grid that Avila made to illustrate the interpersonal distances of people. I closed my eyes for that moment hoped that it wouldn’t rain for there were people, I mean couples, hugged tight each other. Hands- they were everywhere: on necks, on waists, over shoulders and enclosed hands. There was some kind of invasion here, or so I thought.

In the research, Avila argued that there is a certain amount of distance maintained by each person in their interaction with other people. A personal “bubble” exists in each individual- that of which is like a “portable invisible territory.” She gave clear-cut differentiation of the terms personal space and territory from the book Environmental Psychology: Territories are relatively stationary areas often with visible boundaries that regulate who will interact. Territoriality is more of a group-based process; personal space, on the other hand, is on an individual-level process (Bell et. al). Avila’s subjects of study were the elderly in health care homes such as in the Co Su Gian Center for the Elderly, Sta. Clara Stepdown Care and Center for the Elderly Foundation, Inc. in Tugbok in the poblcaion area of Davao City. She delimited her study of the elderly whose ages range from 65 and above.

Interpersonal distances. I looked around me there were many people. Some sat on the other benches across me. There were others who were busy with there cellphones. A gang of boys, dressed in black shirts, were eyeing two passers-by. At that very moment, I wanted no one to sit beside me. I felt that my personal space expanded because these people were for me strangers.

It was the researcher Edward T. Hall who introduced proxemic theory. It is how humans unconsciously and consciously structures microspace- the distance between man in the conduct of daily transactions, the organization of space in his/her house and buildings, and ultimately the layout of his/her town.

Proxemic research is based on the concept of territoriality, a basic concept in the study on animal behavior which an organism naturally lays claim to an area and defends it against other members of the same or other species. ET Hall investigated man’s use of personal space in contrast with the fixed feature space and informal space. Fixed feature space is characterized by unmovable boundaries while semi-fixed feature space is defined by fixed boundaries such as furniture. Informal space is the most significant for an individual because it includes the four distances maintained in encounters with others. These distances as classified by ET Hall are the intimate, personal, social, and public distance. Several factors were considered in measuring the distances of people. Such includes degree of relationship, gender, age, and physical features of both environment and the person involved.

Avila’s research aimed to measure the interpersonal distances of the elderly and to know the effects of such factors in their interpersonal distances. Avila noted how in the Philippines much of the concern was on medications for curing diseases and little attention was given to the psychological needs of the elderly. In the healthcare homes, Avila gathered data and reconciled it with her project proposals. Her facility models were those which allowed comfort for the elderly. All her efforts underlie intentions for the well-being of the elderly. Her research about interpersonal distances of the elderly can increase amount of physical comfort, improve communication among the community, and increase group productivity and effectiveness. Her research will be used as reference in designing elderly facilities in regions with similar cases.


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