As the senior living industry continues to evolve, there is a growing need to incorporate healthcare facility planning and design principles that cater to the needs of older adults. Healthcare architects and designers work together to create safe and aesthetically pleasing environments that feel like home.

Healthcare architecture and design play a crucial role in creating modern senior living facilities that meet the evolving needs of residents. Here are some fundamental building blocks to creating a senior-friendly, safe, and comfortable environment in healthcare facilities.

1, Divide and Conquer

Assisted living facilities are dividing their staff and residents into smaller ecosystems to prevent the transmission of infections from one group to another. This has translated into the design of communal living spaces. For instance, architects are creating smaller vestibules to give each group their amenities, satellite dining areas, lounge space, and private fitness rooms. They also provide secluded rooms to interact with families or visitors.

2. A Taste of the Great Outdoors

Healthcare architects and designers are incorporating biophilic design principles to create environments harmoniously with nature. For instance, indoor potted plants and well-tended lawns help to improve air quality. Research has also shown that exposure to natural light helps patients and residents maintain circadian rhythms while enhancing the quality of sleep and mental and physical well-being.

3. A Hands-Free Approach

The Covid 19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hands-free, sensor-based technology. Architects install devices like sensors to enable the touchless opening and closing of doors, walkthrough thermal cameras or temperature scanners at entrances, and automated light and temperature controls. As a result, furniture and common surfaces are becoming more durable and easier to clean.

Check out our blog post on how healthcare facilities are using healthcare architecture and design elements to keep their environments safe and sterile.

4. Home Sweet Home:

Transitioning to an assisted living community is challenging for older adults or their families. According to research, it is projected that by 2040, senior citizens will comprise approximately 22% of the population. This has led to increasing demand for long-term care facilities that can assist with their daily activities. Despite this, most adults (77%) would rather receive care in their own homes.

Visionary Bill Thomas said, “ Let’s go beyond; let’s move past the era of mass institutionalization. Let’s create a model based on one of our oldest ideas: people living in their own homes.”

Healthcare architects and designers are taking inspiration from the hospitality industry and residential home design to create warm, welcoming environments that remind residents of their homes. The challenge is to balance efficient, institution-like settings and cozy, warm, home-like environments that help seniors retain their independence and privacy.

5. Supporting Caregivers

It is essential to consider the staff facilities and senior resident environments for overall design improvement in assisted living facilities. The Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the need for facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of staff members at the forefront of caring for the residents.

Healthcare architects and designers are incorporating design elements that create a safe and healthy work environment for staff.

6. Leaving No One Behind: The Importance of Inclusive Design

Healthcare architects and designers are also using inclusive design principles to create spaces that are accessible and comfortable for all residents, regardless of their abilities. This includes designing spaces that are easy to navigate, with adequate lighting, contrasting colours, and clear signage.

Doorways and hallways should be wide enough for wheelchairs, and bathrooms should have grab bars, non-slip flooring, and wheelchair-accessible sinks and showers.

The inclusive design also extends to the use of furniture and fixtures that are adaptable and adjustable. For example, height-adjustable dining tables and beds can be lowered or raised to assist with transfers.

7. Beautiful Spaces for Better Living

Art and aesthetics are also essential to healthcare design in senior living facilities. Studies have shown that our environments profoundly influence our cognitive abilities.

“We tend to think we must make things simple for older adults. But this isn’t always true.”  Dr. Upali Nanda, HKS Principal and Director of Research.[2] 

When senior citizens encounter complex environments, their brain function and neuroplasticity flourish as they engage with different stimuli.

Healthcare architects and designers are incorporating artwork, murals, and sculptures that reflect the local community’s culture and history to create a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Check out our detailed blog on how design elements in a healthcare environment can help improve mental health.

Conclusion

As healthcare designers, we understand that creating safe and aesthetically pleasing environments that feel like homes for older adults is essential. Incorporating senior-friendly elements into healthcare facility planning and design principles is vital to cater to the needs of older adults and their families.

As the senior living industry evolves, it is our responsibility to keep pace with the changing needs and expectations of the aging population.

Kshititi Nagarkar, Shree Designs