INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Care homes must use design to create sense of community

Samantha Lord

Designer Samantha Lord is commissioned to create interiors for properties ranging from boutique hotels to care homes. Great design may be universal, but care homes have very specific needs, she describes in this exclusive insight for Care Home Professional.

As individuals, we need to feel part of a community, either through work or daily living. When the transition is made to live within a care environment, be it assisted living or care home, it is important to remain part of the community and avoid feelings of isolation from the outside world.

I like to design buildings for the elderly that make younger generations feel comfortable as well. This breaks down social barriers and encourages the mix of age groups to integrate together, and creates a community feeling where daily lives are interesting, varied and fulfilling.

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My intension is to create such environments by providing a relaxing and enjoyable home. It’s about creating the positive feeling you get from a building when you walk in to it.

Designing for the care sector is about never standing still, always questioning and moving forwards. It is very much about being skilful in how you design the areas, and taking a holistic approach to that design. It doesn’t necessarily have to cost more, but it does require a certain skill and attention to detail.

It is good to be able to design environments that match the quality of care delivered by the care providers I work with, and this means paying close attention to how the home will work for both the staff and the residents.

We are creating an environment that people will call their home, but it must also be practical from an operational point of view. Having come from a nursing background, I understand the needs and demands of the care team, so this definitely aids decision making when it comes to design, and how we work with architects to create particular spaces. In combining design skills with a medical background, it enables these two knowledge bases to merge to achieve the best outcome for all of those involved in the life around the home.

There is a vast difference between designing a hotel scheme, where people of all ages may stay for a short time, and that of a care home, where elderly people will be living – the key being the word ‘home’.

Good design focuses around creating an environment which is enjoyable and completely suitable for the people using it, these are the residents, care staff and visitors alike. As with most things in life it is about balance.

Understanding use of colour, and the impact that it has on our demeanour is vital. Lighting also has a significant impact on our mood, and so the mix of natural, task and ambience lighting requires balance in relation to the orientation of the actual building e.g. north or south facing, as well as on which floor the space is located.

This translates not only for the people who are living in the care home, but also for the people who are working there, and the people who visit, ensuring everything is fit for purpose must be a strong influence on product selection.

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