The great outdoors

NHG

NHG interior designer Dana O’Donnell discusses the importance of outdoor space and colour in care home design, and how technology has, and continues to, influence and improve the standards and quality of care.

By future proofing designs, they will appeal to millennials and stand the test of time. Added to this, designers should opt for materials that are durable, long lasting and aesthetically pleasing.

It’s important to provide easy to read signage and use dark colours against light colours to make sure there is a minimum contrast of 30 degrees light reflectance between two surfaces.

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When selecting furniture choose options that provide a variety of comfortable seat heights to suit all mobility groups and ages and allow flexibility in the furniture layout for a variety of activities. You should also use contrasting upholstery fabrics with surrounding materials to help residents navigate around rooms with ease.

Whilst investing in high quality flooring, furniture and upholsteries will often scare care home owners and managers, they will see a higher return on investment in the long term.

Added to this, practical considerations should not be ignored. Flooring should be strong, safe and hardwearing and able to withstand pressures from trolleys and zimmer frames.

If used correctly, colours have significant positive impacts for care patients, as they can create pathways and guide patients around environments allowing them to identify specific rooms such as bathrooms and communal areas.

The average life expectancy is increasing at a rapid rate, as in 2012 it was 82 and it has since risen to 95 as reported by Public Health England last year. Added to this dementia and Alzheimer’s will become more common, presenting a higher need for dementia considerations in care design.

Given this backdrop, care homes need to adapt with the times and offer the high standards of living that people are accustomed to. Interior design is moving away from the traditional, conservative look towards the more welcoming designs typical of the hospitality industry.

The recent introductions of “care villages” are a step in the right direction. Care villages are introducing contemporary designs for residents and families by creating a luxurious, community feel.

Care home outdoors designs have some way to go, however. Whilst many have gardens, only a select few have safe, secure outdoor environments for their residents to enjoy fresh air and sun light.

Common views of care home residents staying in bed or in the same seat for days on end have given the industry a bad name. A focus on outdoor design will offer a fresh perspective, and the benefits of being outdoors have been scientifically proven. Studies have found that being outdoors can improve short-term memory, restore mental energy, relieve stress and reduce risks of early death.

But a key barrier for care home owners and managers is the additional costs the creation and development of an outdoor area would incur. However the initial up-front investment would lead to a significant return almost straight away.

For inspiration, I’d recommend turning to Hogeweyk a care village in Holland (see pages 32-33). The owners have created a village to suit residents’ different lifestyles to give them a sense of community, familiarity, independence and access to safe, comfortable outdoor areas.

For more insight from Dana, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/dana-o-donnell-91b46525  and for more information on NHG, visit their website: www.nh-group.co.uk

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