Design elements that are important for a senior living community
It is a fact that an individual’s physical prowess and capabilities change over time, especially as one moves from his 50s to 90s. Therefore, senior living communities, which majorly house senior citizens, should be designed meticulously, keeping in mind the increasing needs of the residents.
While one can indeed stay fit through physical, mental, intellectual and social exercises, it is important that the physical surroundings that one resides in is designed to accommodate these changes. It is for this reason that communities, where the majority of residents are seniors should incorporate elements that allow for changes that are both natural and inevitable.
While designing a senior living home, one needs to ensure that all the public spaces within the community are usable and accessible throughout the resident’s lifetime.
Falls, because of the lack of stability and balance, is the single biggest danger for seniors as they age over time. The entire community should be free of steps and transitions. It is important that walking surfaces be slip-resistant. Matte rather than glossy finishes on the floor provide better balance. Rounded edges for wall corners help in reducing the seriousness of injuries from falls. Wall-mounted rails for the support of residents can also play an important role in reducing falls.
Equally, the lighting consultant should ensure that his/her design complements the architect’s efforts in providing residents with a consistent level of light and shadow-free public spaces.
Over time it is normal for some residents to require mobility support – walking sticks, walkers and wheelchairs. Communities designed for seniors should ensure that the circulation spaces, i.e. the corridors on resident floors, public spaces and elevators, allow for easy movement. Hence, the corridors should be wider, the elevators should be more spacious, and the circulation space in public areas should be clearly defined. It is also for this reason that the elevator doors are set up to remain open for longer than their default setting.
Public spaces are the hive of all activities in a community. With loneliness being the biggest accelerator of age-related ailments, the communities must offer large open spaces – both indoors and outdoors to provide the residents with an opportunity to meet and interact. Senior communities dedicate up to 6-8 times of habitable spaces to public areas as compared to mixed-family condominiums. These spaces should allow for physical activity, intellectually challenging games, and stimulating engagements. Equally, public spaces should be flexible to allow for small private gatherings and larger groups.
Finally, it is important to ensure that the services and facilities should be managed 24×7 by services and healthcare expert. Such communities must combine the warmth and cosiness of residential space with the service efficiency of a hotel.
The service personnel that support these communities should be able to access all parts of the community – both private homes and public spaces. However, keeping in mind the nature of their work, the personnel needs to move faster while carrying all sorts of equipment and movement trolleys. Hence, to ensure safety, the traffic zones for the service team must be kept separate from the circulation space of the senior residents.
Author Name : Mohit Nirula