Designing for the Aging Population
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Designing for the Aging Population

You will grow old.  It’s unavoidable.  It’s a fact of life that most everyone will experience.  Providing healthcare services for those in the later stages of life will become more and more prevalent as the post-war silent generation will soon be supplanted by the largest demographic: baby boomers.  Recognizing this inevitable occurrence, healthcare providers have been taking steps to plan for this influx of septuagenarians, octogenarians, and up within their healthcare facilities.  As architects and designers in the healthcare field, we have come to see an increased number of projects cross our desks that require a special focus towards designing spaces that account for the aging population.

One of Elevar’s esteemed partners, Premier Health, located in the Dayton/Middletown Ohio area, realized the need for accommodating elderly patients and in doing so realized that their needs differed from those of the younger crowd.  In 2017, when beginning the renovation of their Emergency Department at Atrium Medical Center, Premier came to Elevar with the request of apportioning a sizable piece of the department into a senior-focused emergency center.

We were tasked with researching what design characteristics would be needed to accommodate seniors in an emergency setting.  Some items from the wish list of features that we presented to the client were deemed too expensive to work within the client’s budget and were removed during the value engineering stage of the design process; these included:

However, the majority of our wish list features survived the value engineering stage and were deemed important and cost effective enough to work within the client’s budget.  The features that were incorporated into the project included:

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In selecting the different materials for the project, several vendors and healthcare facility specialists were consulted. Mockups were provided and tested on site with the Premier team for various components and materials.  Through the guidance of Sylvia Roark, Elevar’s head Lighting Designer, at least ten different lighting fixture and control options were borrowed from pre-selected vendors to test and verify they would meet the strict dimming, color tuning, and luminosity needed for our unique situation before the Lithonia BLT Tunable LED fixture was officially selected.  Melissa Johnson, the Interior Designer for the project, reviewed just as many flooring options to ensure the final project checked as many boxes of the client’s request list: minimal transitions, long-life, low maintenance, strong slip-resistance, no need for stripping or waxing.

“We must examine the broader implications of these shifting patient demographics.”

The design team, headed by Jim Harrell, took their mission seriously, and produced a well-designed environment that can be used for many years to come for this ever-increasing demographic.  As Regan Henry, PhD, writes in “Patient Safety, A Clear Path”, an article in the August 2017 edition of Healthcare Design Magazine, “As we plan future healthcare facilities, architects must examine the broader implications of these shifting patient demographics and provide design solutions that encourage safe patient mobility, decrease patients’ vulnerability to falls, and give caregivers the tools to assist patients with ambulation.” This is the future, and we had better prepare for it.