Most of the time senior citizens cannot be alone as they will become dependent and require care and attention for their wellbeing. An old age home is a place intended for the elderly where they can live when there is a problem to stay on their own or their children or sometimes destitute. Old age is an inevitable part of human life and the required care and affection from family may not be given all the time.
In a lot of cases, aged people who require another person to provide care are often sent to old-age homes. An old age home is a multi-facility centre with housing facilities for senior citizens. It is designed to create a home for the elderly but more often than not due to lack of funds or irrelevant design old age homes become more like a healthcare facility with poor infrastructure.
Here are some points you need to consider while designing old age homes:
1. User-Friendly Design
For people who have lived independently or with families all their lives, living in an old age home could be challenging. Adapting to rules and new people will take time. To make this process smooth and convenient the atmosphere and ambiance of the place play a major role. The design of the old age home should concentrate on comfort and a user-friendly experience. There are several thumb rules and standards followed while designing a space for senior citizens.
Some common problems with some of the existing old-age home designs are narrow entrances and staircases, which make accessibility with wheelchairs difficult. When stairs are narrow and steep and bathrooms aren’t easily accessible or inconveniently located. Often these possible design oversights do not consider the needs of older people or for people with disabilities.
2. Landscape Design
A place with a landscape often tends to relax and calm one’s mind. A stroll through a garden or a park is one of the most common activities old people do. This also helps them to keep them active and fit. Slow exercises also help increase the well-being of their physical and mental health and doing them along with fellow residents would add fun to the activities.
Most of the time senior citizens feel like they are cooped up in their houses. So, introducing landscape design in the old age home architecture would be a key factor that will be a tremendous change in the environment for the elderly. Being close to nature is proven to have a healing effect on people. Adding natural landscape elements will boost their mood and provide rejuvenating energy.
3. Entertainment and Recreation Space
During old age, people feel like they have a lot of time in their hands. Passing time seems to be a very general issue amongst senior citizens. Boredom leads to lethargy and their presence of mind is seldom lost. Having hobbies is one way of spending time. Making time for lost hobbies like reading books, watching movies or knitting will add to their daily activities.
For entertainment and recreation, games are played where the senior citizens interact and have fun and relax. Having a common activity for every week is a strategy adopted in old age homes for recreation purposes. When this is considered in the design, the main requirement for this cause to be able to function would be a large gathering space accessible easily from their homes. Multifunctional closed or semi-open spaces must be designed to cater to the needs of the people.
A few common old age problems are weakness in limbs, vision, and memory loss. Whatever the issue, physical or mental old people tend to become vulnerable and susceptible to danger. Without supervision, they tend to get lost easily. Due to irresponsible design and infrastructure, they often tend to trip or slip which could be a minor issue for young people but could be more dangerous for old people who take longer to recover.
So, designing spaces with a clear viewing range so that it becomes easy to spot people from across the room or halls. Blind spots and negative spaces must be avoided to reduce confusion. Clear signage must be provided at common spots like gardens and gathering areas in case the senior citizens get lost. Levels and steps are not recommended as a design rule as old people often have weak limbs and it becomes hard to climb up.
During old age, it becomes uncertain as to when and what kind of health issue may arise. Medical support becomes essential for the elderly. Sudden and severe health issues require immediate care and treatment. If not a hospital at least the old age home must be equipped with basic treatment facilities and equipment.
Easy access and sufficient beds must be provided for care. Equipment and medicine must be available to be transferred to the house of the patient in case of emergencies. Wide lobbies, interconnected blocks, and ease of movement through transition spaces become crucial for the design of healthcare facilities in old age homes.
6. Good lighting
Good lighting is another essential design feature that has to be introduced in old age homes. An ample amount of light must be provided and the places must be well lit to have free movement and good vision. Lights are often provided in nooks and corners like table tops, cabinets, above switches, etc.
The lighting provided must be warm colours and nothing jarring to the eyes. Lighting fixtures in lawns are also important during the evening. All the spaces must be well-lit with no shadow areas and glare must be avoided.
7. Personal space
Despite living along with several other senior citizens who are strangers and sharing space with them, they must be provided personal space. It is essential for them to feel that the old age home can be their home where they are free to do what they want.
For this, as a design solution, they can be provided with personal rooms where they can carry out various activities individually and not as a group. A design must aim to reach the people on a subjective level so that they can relate to each space differently and feel as if it’s their own.
Designing old age homes is a great challenge as the mind-set of the users is not fixed and often requires a fresh perspective. An old age home design must achieve to create a place to instill hope and energy and not just as a shelter for old people who are often abandoned by their families.
The natural dynamic of the public design must be tweaked to be adjusted to the requirements of the old age home design. Simplicity and dignity in spaces for the design must be followed in an attempt to create a place for the senior citizens to have a better and healthier lifestyle.
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ArchDaily. (2018). How To Design for Senior Citizens. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/900713/how-to-design-for-senior-citizens.
JK, B. (2010). Guide to Designing Old Age Homes. [online] Architecture Student Chronicles. Available at: http://www.architecture-student.com/design-guide/guide-to-designing-old-age-homes/.