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Designing Senior Living Facilities to Nurture Socialization

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

How social connections keep seniors healthy

Social connections are important at any stage in life—we all need human interactions to be our best selves. But as we age, the number of interactions and connections we have declines, whether by choice, poor health, or the death of friends and loved ones. Feelings of loneliness can be heightened when seniors move into long-term care, even though they are surrounded by people. Leaving the familiarity of their home and neighborhood, coupled with declines in physical and cognitive health, can make them feel more disconnected than ever. That’s why designing senior living facilities to nurture social interaction is so important.

Socialization for better health

Being lonely can have a profound effect on health, especially in the elderly. Loneliness not only can lead to depression and stress, but it’s also been shown to cause memory loss, reduced mobility and even death. Some compare its effects to unhealthy habits, like smoking or lack of physical activity. Plus, the World Health Organization has designated it a major health issue.

But by simply engaging in meaningful conversations, seniors can feel more joy and optimism in their lives. Social interactions may set the tone for a desire to do more, like engaging in physical activity, eating better foods and participating in activities. That’s how social connections keep seniors healthy. And even though seniors may experience loss of social connections as they age, they find more satisfaction in the relationships they do have.

How senior living facility design can help

Enhancing socialization among your residents involves more than ensuring you’ve scheduled a variety of programming that appeals to residents. While programming is significant, the configuration and design of your building impacts how welcoming your facility feels and how easily residents can interact.

For example, bigger isn’t always better. Seniors are likely leaving a home or apartment that is much smaller than most care facilities, the size of which can feel overwhelming. So, a large space, like a lobby or multipurpose space, may not succeed as an ideal place to socialize depending upon its layout, lighting and furniture selection.

When designing senior living facilities, it’s important to think about available spaces like neighborhoods:

  • Consider remodeling a large facility into a series of smaller spaces that include six to eight rooms or apartments to foster a greater sense of community.
  • Make common areas easy to get to and navigate. Residents will socialize more if their destination is just a short walk away.
  • Reduce or eliminate long hallways. Shorter hallways may contribute to residents meeting by chance and engaging in conversation.
  • Reduce the overwhelming feeling of an open space by defining areas within it. This can be done with design details like columns or décor like flooring and furniture placement.
  • Have an open line of sight to the outdoors. Natural light does wonders for residents’ mood.
  • Consider adding memory boxes outside each room if you don’t have them already. While they are generally considered helpful for triggering memories for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they also can serve as a conversation starter.

As you can see from these tips, the more your space reflects a sense of community, the more comfortable and secure your residents will feel. And, ultimately, they will be healthier and happier (and so will their families!).

Is it time for a facility remodel or addition?

In just 15 short years, it’s estimated that 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65. As those seniors enter their 70s and 80s, it’s more likely they and their children will be searching for long-term care options. Improve your marketability with an up-to-date facility design that is flexible to meet changing needs in coming decades. We can help! Designing senior living facilities is all we do. Call us at (920) 969-9344 or visit our Contact page to schedule a free consultation.