Innovative Design for Seniors

Addressing wellness, health, and safety

By: Leah Sookoo | Jan 02, 2023

Arriving at creative solutions requires the consistent belief that architecture can be better for its inhabitants. Reevaluating modern designs with innovative technology, we’ve committed to finding the best possible materials and technology to enhance the lives of seniors who are living out their days away from home. We are relationally and socially focused, which means the facilities we design take into account the unique challenges and strains of seniors with dementia of all phases. Understanding what innovative technology is available and utilizing it is a key component to our process.

Innovative Design for Seniors

Human-Centered Architecture

Human-centered architecture has the ability to harmoniously merge relational needs with design. As a firm, we seek first to understand the needs of future inhabitants before we begin our work. When considering seniors with Alzheimer’s, we considered the challenges they face, and the remedies they require. It is well-known that Alzheimer’s patients suffer from loss of memory, but also loss of place which results in anxiety, irregular sleep, and/or escapist behaviour. Every aspect of our design takes a creative, human approach to helping these individuals.

01 A Biophilic Approach

Biophilia [noun]: a love of life and the living world; the affinity for human beings and other life forms. From the Greek: bio – nature; philia – love. We believe in the power of nature and its healing properties for all ages, especially seniors with Alzheimer’s. As a firm, we take a biophilic approach, and integrate nature into our buildings as much as possible, including water walls, plant walls and natural materials. Large windows that look out into these green spaces are prioritized as well, as windows have been an important medical prescription for recovery and healing. Research shows that when you’re integrated into nature, your body and body chemistry changes and improves.

02 HEPA Filters

Creating a safe, healthy environment is part of our architectural responsibility. By using HEPA filters in our design, we are using medical-grade filters typically reserved for spaces in airliners and medical facilities, to provide cleaner air for seniors. We’ve determined that the use of HEPA filters, which eliminate 99.97% of pollen, dust and bacteria particles, will contribute to a longer, healthier life.

03 Addressing Circadian Rhythms with Lighting

We also take into consideration circadian rhythms and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is caused by lower angles and reduced sun in the winter. Those with Alzheimer’s suffer from restless, sleepless nights, which interrupts their melatonin production. We’re proud to be working alongside Dr. Antel from the University of Calgary to balance out and synthesize daylight. We’ve incorporated unique lighting that provides 14 hrs of daylight (800 lumens) and 1 hr of dimmer light (3200 calvin), which sparks the melatonin in one’s system and rebalances and synchronizes the nervous system.

04 Dealing with Containment Anxiety

Those who work with Alzheimer’s residents innately understand the anxieties involved. We’ve worked closely with nurses and staff to understand how to address elopement anxiety in particular which occurs when patients are in a lockdown suite and constantly attempt escape. We’re working closely with Wander Watch, a tamper proof wristband that monitors high risk patients, to help monitor and turn patients back when they are at risk.

05 Wayfinding & Universal Design

Our architectural design takes into mind wayfinding markers for seniors. In this project, not only are we prioritizing green space and gardens, but also large murals with familiar imagery and places that remind the community of safe places and create landmarks that are memorable and comforting. For visibility and accessibility, we’ve designed movable partition walls in suites that allows one to find and use the washroom easily. The walls move back as per the requirements of the Alberta Building Code, gliding seamlessly in the space they’re in.

We also take careful consideration to create zones of safety that are contiguous. With elevators designed connected to fire doors, privacy and dignity is reintroduced whenever a patient needs to be moved in an emergency. Toilet seats also glow in the dark for added visibility, to help manage incontinence.

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