Mindful design focuses on preventing falls, reducing hospitalizations and championing confidence in aging independently
On an annual basis, more than one in four older adults will fall, and it’s the top reason for hospitalization in those age 65+. It’s also one of the top reasons why seniors have to leave their homes and enter assisted living. Interior and architectural design play key roles in creating a home environment that is safe, aesthetically pleasing and adaptable as the resident’s needs change.
For the IQ Homes at Masonic Villages at Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, RLPS Architects designed a new model of independent living that fuses mindful design with transparent technology to tackle the top safety concerns of older residents.
Reducing Falls Risk
Environmental hazards—from raised doorway thresholds and poorly designed lighting to storage areas that force residents to reach too high for an item—are key contributors to falls, notes a 2018 study in Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD). “The current study provides empirical evidence of the link between environmental hazards and older adults’ falling, which is useful for developing effective fall intervention design strategies.”
Smart lighting design gets seniors from dawn to dusk without the dangers of too-dim or too-bright lighting. Sophisticated sensor technology monitors for dangerous patterns, including when a resident has been out of bed too long at night, possibly from a fall. Zero-threshold entryways eliminate tripping hazards and enable easy use of wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
The most popular place for a fall in the home isn’t the staircase, it’s the bathroom. Falls that occur in or near the bathroom have a higher correlation with hospitalization than falls in other areas of the home, the HERD study notes. Zero-threshold flooring, roll-in showers, grab bars and height-adjustable fixtures provide safer toileting and showering without introducing an institutional feel.
Clearing the Air
Breathing difficulties (COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, pulmonary edema and others) are among the top 10 reasons older adults seek treatment in an emergency room.
Asthma is a special challenge for older adults, since even a mild episode can cause dangerous shortness of breath and the risk of respiratory failure, notes the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The treatment of asthma in seniors also presents difficulties, as steroid-based medications can cause severe side effects in older adults or interact with other medications prescribed for common geriatric conditions.
Controlling air quality within the home can reduce flare-ups from pollen, pollution and other irritants, lessening the chance of a breathing emergency and reducing the need for intervention medications. The IQ Home’s deliberate inclusion of sophisticated air filtering technology is the cornerstone of new research in how filtration impacts the reduction of hospitalizations and medication interventions due to breathing issues.
Having a sense of safety and control over the home environment is a major part of living independently. Part of it is autonomy: Not having to ask for assistance to reach something, cook something or move from room to room. But much also relies on a sense of safety, knowing that technology and mobile access are working together to allow residents to control security lighting, door locks and garage doors with one click from a handheld device.
Statistics show the overwhelming majority of older adults would prefer to age independently in a home setting. With mindful design, the IQ Home provides the safety, accessibility and confidence residents cherish while preserving their ability to live the way they wish.
To learn more about the IQ Home and its features for enhancing the safety and ability of residents who live independently, visit our IQ Homes Resource Page and download the free ebook, IQ Home: Intentional design for resident safety.