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Trends in assisted living design

By Chris Falzarano on 7/28/2014

Within any industry, it is not uncommon to see the popularization of particular trends. The same holds true for assisted living facility design, which has seen an uptick in certain trends of its own. Currently, the most popular trend across the board is designated areas for recreation. No matter the kind of assisted living facility, recreation has become an integral component because it can be used to keep the residents engaged through social interaction, and it can also be used for the purpose of rehabilitation. The only distinction between facilities will typically be the level of decoration and the size of the recreational space. Among the more common recreational activities are card and billiards rooms, gyms and other areas for physical activity, libraries, organized classes, such as a cooking class, and coordinated trips to malls or casinos. In some instances, there are swimming pools, ballrooms, business centers and Nintendo Wii consoles incorporated into a facility’s design to encourage the residents to socialize. 

Continuum of care is another concept that has gained popularity as the average life expectancy of each generation increases. Providing a means of aging in place, continuum of care facilities typically include three components: apartment complexes for well seniors, an assisted living facility and a nursing home. It is essentially a one-stop shop for senior citizens. Continuum of care not only provides the convenience of aging in place, but also peace of mind for the occupants that they will be able to receive care for as long as they live. It also helps to prevent any disruption or uncertainty should a senior experience a severe health event. Once recovered, the resident has the opportunity to remain within their complex, avoiding any major changes, including being moved to unfamiliar surroundings. Another trend is the development of memory care facilities. Once reserved for a small portion of assisted living homes, fully-dedicated memory care facilities are now more common than ever, as the demand for this service is the highest it has ever been.

The demand remains even within traditionally designed assisted living homes, where the number of memory care units requested within a design has practically doubled in recent years. Careful consideration and an understanding of dementia residents’ needs are integral to the design of memory care facilities. Some elements are as simple as no dead-end corridors, which could easily confuse residents. Other elements include the use of memory cues, such as designing rooms where the bathroom doors face the beds so that a light can be left on and residents can more easily access the toilet. Residents’ personal items are also used as memory cues, lining corridors that lead to their rooms, keeping their minds stimulated while also guiding them.

The customization of a facility’s lighting system is commonly used to counteract the psychological phenomena of “sundowning,” in which someone with dementia experiences increased confusion and restlessness as the sun sets. Convenience and quality of life are major considerations when designing any facility, and assisted living facilities are no exception. No matter the trend, one thing they all have in common is that they are driven by residents’ needs. For more information on assisted living facility design, please contact David Mammina, Director of Health Care and Senior Living Practice, at dmammina@h2m.com.

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