Dignity—something that is often taken for granted—is one of the most fundamental elements of the human spirit. Everyone wants to be valued and respected for who they are. Those needs do not disappear if a person is living with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Translating this innate desire to memory support design solutions demands acknowledgement of each person’s independence and personal choice, regardless of his or her acuity level.
Supporting the needs of people living with dementia requires senior living communities and design professionals to first understand the daily living challenges that a typical congregate environment presents. By identifying these difficulties, memory support settings can be reimagined to nurture independence and meaningful experiences which will, in turn, provide a sense of purpose and personal dignity.
One of the most important outcomes of a college education is meaningful employment after graduation. However, recent graduates are seeking employment in one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression. As of December 2020, about 7.2 percent of recent college graduates were unemployed in the U.S. These statistics point to the need for a career center design shift to meet students’ needs today and into the future.
Today’s job market emphasizes the importance of robust career services to help students take their first career step. Institutions need to provide students—and parents—with a tangible reminder that they offer a quality education AND critical career resources. Even before the pandemic, career services have been assuming a more prominent role on campus.
Within the team of family, caregivers and clinicians caring for someone with memory impairments is an unexpected partner – the space in which individuals live.
Throughout the history of supporting people living with cognitive impairments, environments have evolved considerably from previous iterations that were virtual lockdowns to spaces available today where people can function safely following their own daily rhythms. This evolution is a direct reflection of the importance the built environment plays in residents’ health and wellbeing.
A carefully designed memory support setting can serve as a silent partner in helping people with cognitive decline live well and potentially help to slow the disease’s progression.
A well-designed space provides cues and guides people to follow daily patterns of eating, sleeping, dressing, or participating in activities, allowing them to live fully in an environment they understand. These cues can be as simple as somewhere to lay out clothes for tomorrow to remind residents to dress in the morning. Red “H” for hot and blue “C” for cold can remind someone to wash their hands. Or, their own furniture from home can remind someone which room is their own.
Colleges and universities of every size must consider entrepreneurship program spaces that address the aspirations of today’s students. Dubbed ‘The Entrepreneur Generation,‘ many expect to start their own company—almost 54% of Gen Z’s according to a recent Nielsen study. Likewise, Gallup found that 40% of 5th to 12th Graders plan to start a business.
This generation, born after 1996 and raised in the ‘influencer’ age, seeks financial independence and the opportunity to make an impact. Gen Z (also called Zoomers) grew up seeing Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard roommates create Facebook in 2004. Startups like Mashable, Tumblr, Firefox and Box followed suit, with founders under the age of 22. And in 2019, the world witnessed activist Greta Thunberg taking on the United Nations Climate Action group at the age of 16.
To respond to the entrepreneurial spirit of Gen Z and help these future leaders develop relevant skills and experience, campuses are investing in maker spaces, think-tanks, incubators and innovation centers located across disciplines and in multiple buildings to encourage access to these resources for all students.
I’m one of the drafters at RLPS. We’re the people who document all of the details of constructing a building – how all of the individual pieces go together. Yes, we use state-of-the-art 3D modeling software to design each building, but we still “draw” a lot of the details individually – the digital equivalent of putting pencil to paper.
What is the building envelope?
One aspect of building design that we spend a lot of time detailing is the building “envelope”, the outer layers of the building that keep the elements out and keep the interior comfortable. The envelope performs those duties by managing and controlling heat transfer, rain and snow, water vapor and air movement.
There are differing opinions regarding best scenarios for getting back to classes this month. Good hand hygiene is the most universally accepted measure for keeping students, staff and faculty safe when returning in-person to schools and campuses this fall. Many of our education clients have indicated that installation of hand sanitizer dispensers is a key component of their preparations. However, it is important to be aware of hand sanitizer guidelines when installing or placing stations in your buildings.
A Simple Solution, but Guidelines Can’t be Overlooked
Hand sanitizer is a preferred hygiene solution due to having less touch points than the traditional soap and sink hand washing. Its ease of use and ready availability may also encourage more frequent sanitizing by students. Hand sanitizer dispenses are simple to implement, with both wall installation and self-standing options available.
Did you know that hand sanitizers are addressed in the International Building Code and the International Fire Code for all school and campus buildings? According to the codes, hand sanitizer is not considered a hazardous material if dispensers are installed correctly and limited quantities of material are stored appropriately. However, incorrectly installed or stored supplies risk being flagged by code enforcement officials as hazardous material.
Is now the time to introduce isolation rooms in campus residence halls? A single room with an en suite bathroom for students who require heightened privacy has become a programming “must” for new and renovated residence halls. Often referred to as “medical rooms,” they provide a private room and bathroom for students with medical needs. This includes conditions like Crohn’s Disease, diabetes, or other immunodeficiency disorders. More recently these rooms have been available at some institutions for students who are transitioning or exploring their identity development.
Following the onset of COVID-19, our architectural team has been discussing if higher education institutions need to consider a similarly designed room for residence halls—an isolation room. This type of specialized space is commonly found in medical facility design, but isolation rooms are not typically included on college and university campuses. Could isolation rooms be one of the long-term changes we see?
As we look to the future, there are many questions about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is going to impact senior living communities.
How will this health crisis reshape consumer priorities and delivery of services to older adults?
Are social isolation requirements and community quarantines causing people to re-evaluate senior housing options?
How do staff members feel about the added pressures they are facing and how is the new normal impacting their ability to provide services?
To start to answer some of those questions and help senior living communities prepare for the future, RLPS was one of the sponsors for a senior living survey of independent living desirability and safety spearheaded by Plante Moran Living Forward and Retirement Dynamics. This survey included independent living residents, prospective residents, and staff members in 70 communities located in 13 states. More than 5,000 survey responses were collected, along with 7,000+ write-in comments and compiled into the final report.
Download the Report
The COVID-19 Sentiment Report will help us better understand how people feel about living or working in an independent living community and how the pandemic is impacting future choices and priorities. The insights from this report will help us reshape senior living communities and services for long-term market strength and resiliency.See More COVID-19 Resources
Over time, things wear out, expectations change, and attitudes adjust. Things will never be as they once were, and the ability to adapt to change is the key to survival. Few community sponsors have the luxury to start over, but all have the ability to reinvent. Reinvention provides an exciting opportunity for good stewardship, while breathing new life into an existing community.
As consumer demographics, product preferences and service priorities continue to evolve, senior living communities can, and must, likewise reinvent themselves to remain relevant.
“In the past, it was not unusual for many of our clients to be the only option in town, but that’s rarely the case anymore,” says Eric McRoberts, AIA. “Even in challenging economic times, providers still need to move ahead, it just might need to be more incremental.”
Whether for financial reasons, land constraints or stewardship of resources, reinvention is a viable consideration. If the existing infrastructure is a good fit for your program goals, substantial value can be gained from building re-use.
Andy Allwine, AIA, recently attended the 14th annual North America Passive House Conference, sponsored by Passive House Institute US. The conference, titled “The Profitable Blueprint for ZERO,” included pre-conference education sessions, keynote talks and two days of education sessions all centered on passive building techniques, detailing and marketing, building science, carbon neutrality and safe building materials. We asked Andy about some of his take-aways from this conference.
What is a Passive House?
A passive house is a building with an airtight, well-ventilated, highly thermally insulated enclosure that reduces the external loads on the building and allows for a smaller, more efficient mechanical system. These factors also happen to make for a more durable building that requires less maintenance, provides a higher degree of health and comfort for occupants and helps mitigate the effects of climate change through radically reduced energy consumption and global warming potential. Almost any building type, use, size, and climate region can achieve passive house standards, including retrofit conditions. In my option, almost all of our projects would be worthy candidates to apply this standard.
According to the Passive House Institute, the term passive house is something of a misnomer as the approach is increasingly being applied to multifamily apartment buildings and large scale commercial buildings as well. As a result, the term passive building is gradually coming into more common usage, as it’s a more accurate term than passive house.