specifying for seniors
In creating a comfortable atmosphere for seniors, special consideration must be paid to flooring, furniture and lighting. Fall prevention is a significant safety issue for these facilities, meaning that flooring must be slip-free. Moisture barrier-backed carpets are ideal, and bleach cleanability is a plus, but some budgets may not allow for it, notes Thoma-Holec, who uses hospitality-style patterns but is careful to avoid overwhelming patterns. Rubber flooring from companies like Johnsonite and nora systems can also provide increased friction to reduce falls without making a space look institutional.
The furniture found in senior living spaces is similarly following the hospitality trend. For example, designers liked the transitional look of Kellex’s hospitality seating, but “from a dimension and cushion perspective, it doesn’t always work,” says Jennifer Showers, director of national sales for Kellex. “After years of trying to make the furniture work, we started the Tranquility line. All the dimensions are specific for seniors—they’re easier to get in and out of” with the right arm heights and firm but comfortable cushions.
With Crypton fabric and removable seat decking, the Tranquility line is cleanable and can withstand spills and incontinence. “We draw from high-end residential design to make them look a lot less institutional. We can provide a stylish transitional piece, but still make it appropriate for senior living,” says Showers.
Lighting is also critical because seniors’ eyes transition more slowly to changes in light, says Shelley Wald, president of WAC Lighting. Pathways and passageways need to be well-lit without producing glare. “Seniors are more perceptive to glare, so it’s more bothersome.”
Instead of more recessed downlights, Wald recommends indirect light such as a wall wash to increase general lighting. Adjustable task lighting that lights a surface, such as a desk or under a kitchen cabinet, works better than increasing general lighting. On stairways, she suggests adding lighting on the stair treads themselves instead of wall sconces.
Newer capabilities include adjustable lighting that’s blue during the day and amber at night so that the blue light doesn’t interfere with melatonin levels. This helps seniors, who are more sensitive to blue light, rest easier at night. Many lighting manufacturers are also introducing new lines that meet ADA requirements but are residentially influenced. “We’ve gotten feedback that we need to design good-looking fixtures that look homey but also meet these medical facility requirements,” says Wald. “We’re addressing that with more decorative options.”
Margie Monin Dombrowski is a freelance writer and interior design student based in Orange County, Calif. She frequently writes for interior design publications and creates copy for businesses on design topics. Find her online at www.margiemd.com.
The Older Population: 2010, from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Frequently Asked Questions page, National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.