It has been noted that the senior population is about to double within the next 20 years. Interior designers and architects have been focusing on the special needs in designing for the aging population. It is sometimes easy to forget our aging population with new products and technology being created and marketed continuously for the younger generations. Older people do exist and need to be addressed as well.
Along with acquiring wisdom, aging has its challenges which are a part of life. With more people living longer and productive years, interior designers and architects have taken note of the challenges we face as we age. The quality of life can be improved with proper planning and execution and senior independence can be obtained.
So let’s take a look at what we need to plan for when designing for our senior populations. An environment for the senior population has to take into consideration that many physical, emotional and spiritual changes can and have occurred. Take for example motor skills, which do decline and it becomes more difficult to maneuver around furnishings or areas. Even gadgets and electronics have to be modified to accommodate the slowing down and inability to use fingers, arms and legs effectively.
Color coding items or areas, using different heights or furniture placements can help to ease usage or mobility. Buttons, knobs, distinguishable tactile surfaces and sounds aids in providing a way to find or locate things. Easy reaching and storage is needed, with color coordinating and labeling for easy access. Smart furniture with natural and appropriate fabrics are also useful. Avoid anything that has sharp edges or can topple over easily.
As mobility can be restricted, space planning can provide better accessibility, such as open floor plans, stair free designs, wider openings, hallways and doorways. Safe showers, lowers sinks, counters, etc., can help client’s find ease in living and mastering independence as much as possible. Making the spaces functional is top priority.
Using good color choices and proper lighting becomes even more important. Vision starts to decline as we age and color vision and color distinction becomes difficult. Using high contrast color schemes can help the elderly distinguish the different areas or levels within the space. For example, a bathroom can have a darker shade on the walls to help make the bathroom fixtures stand out such as the toilet, sink, etc.
Optimal lighting is also an integral component for better visibility, along with keeping glare down to a minimum. Proper lighting such as motion lights can help to avoid accidents or falls, as well as special flooring and materials can prevent slipping. Different colors or patterns can help a senior distinguish different areas or levels within a space.
Another consideration is the effect of colors and depression. Elderly people are more inclined to get depressed and feel isolated. Careful planning and color usage can help to promote wellness such as using a light rose color and pinks which can evoke a sense of peace and calmness.
Hearing is another important factor to consider. A large population over the age of 65 have some form of hearing loss and special gadgets such as phones with high amplification can help with hearing loss concerns.
Essential oils in a diffuser to feed the senses while providing well-being along with soft music or a quiet background can also prove to be useful.
So in essence, if you are either building a new home or reconfiguring an older home to fit the needs of someone who is older and is facing challenges, this is something that can be done effectivity with some careful planning, which can help to improve mobility, maintain independence and ltimately enhance the quality of life.