For most of us, the scariest part of growing old is the inability to maintain the way of life we are used to. While senior adults want to keep their independence, this isn’t always possible, as the demands for care increase with age. On the other hand, most families today have both parents working, so the prospects of constant attention, and daily activities, such assisted bathing, dressing, toileting, and exercising, are extremely hard to achieve. This is the reason why organising senior care environments comes with a number of challenges. Here are some guidelines.

Incorporate better acoustics

As we age, we have less sensitivity to lower frequency pitches. Even though the ability to discern normal conversation is not affected at first, with the presence of background noise, it can produce self-doubt, and lower self-esteem. As a result, a well-designed space allows residents to speak in a normal voice to be understood. Rooms and daytime spaces with soft, sound-absorbing surfaces, such as carpets and acoustic tiles allow people to talk more softly, making the communication easier.

Create well-lit spaces

Since our vision is by far the most important sensory channel, with up to 90% of information we learn coming through our sight, aging often comes with a number of visual incapacities, which include impaired ability to adapt to different light levels, reduced ability to discern details, restricted field of vision, reduced colour recognition, etc. As a result, the lighting requirements in assisted living communities need to be different than in family homes, as improper illumination might restrict mobility and other normal activities.

Maintain consistent illumination

Uneven brightness can create visual ‘edges’ in places where light and shadow meet, resulting in difficulties with depth perception. Also, uneven differences in light levels of their family homes may cause the feeling of disorientation and confusion for the elderly. A consistent level of indoor lighting, supplemented with adequate task lighting is the best combination for daily activities of senior residents, while gradual changes in light levels, especially between outside daylight and indoor lighting, allow for easier moving.

Use a calming colour palette

It’s been scientifically proved that colours can influence sleep, wakefulness, emotions, and even health. However, in many cases, seniors see colours and patterns differently than younger people. In order to ensure stability for its residents, and peace of mind for their families, this modern dementia care community is built with light-filled spaces and decorated in a calming palette of blues and greens that provide an uplifting backdrop. Apart from colours, patterns and textures also have immense therapeutic potential, so senior care designers should avoid high-contrast geometric patterns.

Reduce glare

Glare has a huge impact on behaviour. Besides reducing comfort, it facilitates confusion, and even anger in seniors who try to eliminate the intruding light source. Direct glare is a result of inadequately shaded light sources, or from daylight beaming into a room that is too dark. In some cases, glare can be created by a strong light source reflecting from a smooth surface, such as a table without a tablecloth, or a highly polished floor without a carpet.

Mobility design details

Our homes often fall short when it comes to incorporating ramps, handrails, wall handles, and other interior design features that allow for easier mobility. As falling is a frequent fear and occurrence among seniors, senior care environments are specifically designed so that they encourage independent movement, whether with canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Appropriate handrail design should be oval, with a broad, flat surface that allows for the arm to rest, without relying on grip strength.

Due to the simple fact that our population is living longer, more and more people will need help in their senior years. With young families struggling with raising children and working double to pay for mortgages, the good news is that the number of great assisted living communities is increasing dramatically. Drawing from these developments, the designers of new senior communities can create supportive settings that help residents live out the full potential well into the golden age.

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