At Apt, as architects and designers, we have been working within the care sector for a number of years – and welcome this renewed debate around how to design better for every stage of life. The sector itself has several categories within the broader heading of care; Independent Living (also called Extra Care), Assisted Living and Memory Care, more commonly referenced as a Care Home, which all address a specific focus.
How can we improve the design?
Our approach to designing for ‘senior living’ is really no different to that of any residential accommodation – we are designing homes, with the user at the centre of this creative discussion.
It is important for us to remember that these are environments where people live, where they meet their friends, welcome visits from their family and where they spend their later years surrounded by professional care and assistance, but also where people primarily want to be part of a community. The future of care is not as an institutionalised medical environment, but an environment based around a home model with facilities and support to assist those who are in need of this assistance.
Although the specific briefing resulting from the age of the residents and their care requirements is an essential consideration in the design, another important focus is finding creative ways to integrate the ‘essential’ equipment and technology with empathy so that the spaces feel more considered, respecting the dignity of the residents and for them to be less categorised as care home residents.
What parameters are there to play with?
The quality of the spaces is paramount - with a greater synergy towards material choices, colour palettes, lighting levels and the relationship of these to the wider function of rooms and spaces. Soft contrasts and natural materials are preferred throughout apartments, warm and light tones combined with natural light will provide the feeling of ‘being at home’. For common areas and amenity spaces, muted, toned-down colours, and darker materials for a more relaxed and tranquil atmosphere are considered alongside spatial design decisions such as the subdivision of larger ‘one function’ spaces like a lounge, into smaller, more intimate, and cosy sub-spaces.