Gone are the days when the term “nursing home” conjured up mental images of sterile, institutional living. Where the aroma of commercial-grade disinfectant floated in the air with other unnamed odors. And where residents publicly share spaces such as bedrooms and restrooms when self-dignity prefers privacy.
While some of those types of facilities are left over from the bygone days of low-tech hospitals, today’s senior care facilities have a completely different look and feel. The 76.4 million baby boomers who either are of retirement age or inching toward retirement are leading the charge in redefining senior care, and the call is being answered. The loudest message from health care recipients is that, if they can’t be in their own homes, then give them a facility that feels like home. Design firms are providing that feeling of home, both in master planning and in aesthetics.
Kimberly Allen, Master of Gerontology and licensed Indiana Health Facility Administrator, outlines two specific designs in today’s senior living industry; both fall into categories DJ has been privileged to be part of.
The Neighborhood Concept
The “neighborhood concept” in senior living is a microcosm of a real life neighborhood but on a senior care campus. Explains Allen, “You will have somewhere around 8-10 resident rooms, called ‘homes,’ with common area space and dining. These areas then connect to another neighborhood laid out in a similar way.”
Greencroft Communities is a provider of senior housing, services, and programs on campuses in Indiana and Ohio. DJ Construction recently partnered with Greencroft in the creation of a neighborhood on Greencroft’s Goshen, IN campus.
Sixty-four beds are included in the two-story addition with each floor forming its distinct neighborhood. A total of 16 residents will live in each neighborhood of the 47,000 sq. ft. facility. Individual neighborhoods will have its own building entrance, living and dining rooms, sitting area, and healthcare staff.
“This new design is to create a stronger sense of home for residents with more choices and more opportunities to build relationships among residents and staff,” according to Sandra Yoder, Senior Vice President of Healthcare Services at Greencroft Goshen.
“We’ve been talking about transforming lives in health care and that’s what this is about,” states Yoder. “There will be staff members assigned to each neighborhood who will give quality care while building ongoing relationships with our residents, just like a family would deliver care in their own homes.”
The Specialty, or Niche, Community
A second concept, according to Allen, is the specialty community, also known as a “niche” community.
“In this concept, designs are created around a specific health care need, such as Alzheimer’s care,” said Allen. Other niche communities might focus on specialized interests within an environment of care, such as pets, or nature, or food/hospitality.
To attain their end result of serving a specific community, builders are either renovating space, or they are building new facilities from the ground-up. In DJ Construction’s case, we have been involved in dozens of projects that would fall into the special care category.
DJ partnered with Elkhart, Indiana’s Hubbard Hill to help complete The Angel Garden, inspired by one of the past residents. The Angel Garden senior park provides a safe, wheelchair accessible outdoor park that contains stocked ponds, a 30-foot waterfall, fountains, bridges, patios, bench seating, and a stage for the performing arts. Those who especially enjoy the natural outdoors spend time in the park.
DJ also partnered with Hubbard Hill to renovate its main dining area, which now has a fine restaurant feel with high ceilings, polished wood partitions, and oil rubbed bronze light fixtures. For lighter fare such as soup, salad, pizza or panini’s, “The Bistro,” with a unique wrought iron ceiling cloud, connects to an outdoor patio area to offer dining al fresco.
Because Hubbard Hill is associated with the North Central district of the Missionary church, it made sense to provide residents with a place for meditation, so DJ Construction built a spacious chapel on Hubbard Hill’s campus in 2002.
There’s No Place Like Home
Although other design concepts and features exist in today’s senior care trends, the overarching trait of all the concepts is to provide residents with the comfort and feel of home.
Matt Schrock, in business development at DJ Construction, recently attended a senior care seminar where much of the conversation was about dividing public space and private space.
“There is a growing realization we need to separate personal space from public space. The language has changed where a ‘room’ is now called a ‘house.’ Within the designs, builders and decorators are providing transitional spaces from the public to the private with interior porches (a bump-out on the front of a room) or different flooring from a hallway to someone’s private space. And designers are allowing residents certain choices like paint colors or flooring or even stain colors so that space really does become a home for the resident,” explained Schrock.
Senior care designs are much more than giving a senior a place to live his or her final years. Today’s care philosophies provide opportunities to live with the confidence, grace, and dignity our elders deserve, and to allow them to continue contributing their experience and wisdom to the surrounding world. Seniors enrich our lives, and their care homes should enrich theirs.
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