How flooring design contributes to healthy, supportive aged-care environments
Advances in health care and increasing life expectancy are driving a demographic shift in our population. But longer lives aren’t always healthier. Ageing brings its own set of challenges — understanding these challenges can assist in designing healthier, supportive spaces for our elderly.
When designing for an aged-care facility, the environment should help residents compensate for the effects of ageing and the on-set of dementia. Such elements include lighting, acoustics and décor. Good, inclusive design can change the lives of residents, staff and the families who visit.
Design and safety considerations
While age affects everyone differently, there are broad similarities in how it can change our relationship with our immediate environment and impact resident and staff safety. These changes are especially significant in these key areas:
Sight becomes impaired with age, so older eyes need two-to-three times more light to see properly. Visual contrasts must be heightened, too. This has important consequences for lighting levels in care homes. Variations in light cause sight problems for the elderly, so uniform lighting is recommended along with the avoidance of shadow and darker areas, which can be unsettling to people with dementia.
Exposure to daylight also helps to regulate daily patterns and lift people’s moods. The floor’s ability to reflect daylight is another factor to consider. Flooring in aged-care facilities should ideally have a light reflectance value (LRV) between 20 and 30%.
Interior spaces that are easy and safe to move around are essential to keeping older people mobile. Walking stimulates our cognitive performance, slowing the age-related decline of our mental faculties.
Smooth, matt, slip-resistant floors that are free from obstacles and comfortable to walk or roll-on will reduce the risk of slips, falls or accidents while encouraging movement.
One of the most critical areas for slip safety in an aged-care facility is the bathrooms, where falls can have serious consequences. Our wetroom solution offers design, compliance and peace of mind, with proven credentials across the country.
Flooring products with a consistent rolling resistance make it easier for residents and staff to navigate with walkers, trolleys or beds, removing any potential frustration of having wheels dig into flooring and making mobility harder.
Contrast is key to vision. Low contrast is a useful way of making flooring safer, by keeping a single colour over different floor finishes. Strong contrasts in LRV can make flooring look uneven and cause hesitation and unsteadiness, which can lead to falls. High, or sudden contrast, is useful for things like stairs.
Not only do we hear less clearly with age, but what we hear changes. Higher frequencies are harder to detect, and background noise can seem louder. This increases the risk of falls (hearing helps our orientation) and makes social interaction harder.
Good acoustic insulation will minimise disturbance from the often-noisy care home environment, which can also greatly impact the quality of sleep of residents.
Tiling reflects sound waves, but flexible flooring such as carpets or acoustic-backed vinyl absorbs them, reducing noise pollution. It’s important to consider the needs of different spaces and patients, and select products that will assist in delivering appropriate acoustic protection between rooms, throughout corridors and in open-plan areas.
People living with dementia typically experience memory problems, have difficulty processing information and are less able to communicate, impacting their perception of their surroundings, leaving them unable to relate what they see to physical reality or to perceive objects in three dimensions.
Colour and contrast can be used to help people with dementia to identify key features and rooms. Using a colour that contrasts with the background draws attention to key features. For example, it can be easier to locate and use switches and sockets, railings and handrails that are of contrasting colour to the wall. Stark contrasts at floor level might become a hazard, as complex patterns, lines and shadows can appear as barriers. Smooth consistent coloured flooring signals that the area is a flat surface, whereas step edges will have high contrast to visually reinforce the change of environment.
Tarkett Wetroom solution
Bathrooms in aged-care facilities can be one of the most costly areas to rectify. Tarkett’s Codemark Certified Wetroom installation uses accredited installers, who test the weld integrity upon install to deliver a greater standard of waterproofing to the installation. This system delivers complete peace of mind to facility owners and managers and is being embraced by some of Australia’s largest aged-care providers.
Designing to enrich lives
Flooring plays a vital role in creating safe, healthy and functional aged-care facilities. Tarkett’s range of aged-care flooring products can contribute to cleaner air — ensuring a facility remains healthy and appealing for years to come.
Powerbond is the tried-and-tested carpet for aged-care facilities. With an impervious backing, Powerbond looks and feels just like carpet, but works like vinyl, protecting the slab from moisture penetration, preventing offensive odours and moisture build-up, a common frustration for aged-care facilities.
For more information: https://professionals.tarkett.com.au/en_AU/node/powerbond-garden-walk-collection-9545.
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