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Outdoor Programming for Wellness

Wellness among older adults has traditionally been considered a physical goal of health and mobility, often achieved in a gym, pool, or fitness center. But senior living community operators are now tapping into the natural environment for resident wellness programming opportunities as well.

Rooftop garden maintained by residents at Waverly Heights in Gladwyne, PA

Today’s senior living population is more active into older age, and often engage in some type of physical activity as part of their lifestyle. A significant portion of seniors cite wellness programs as a deciding factor in choosing a senior living community, suggesting that wellness is increasingly important to both current and future residents.

In response to changing expectations, senior living communities are looking outdoors to enhance their resident wellness programming. Including exterior spaces such as walking trails, community gardens, exercise areas, and fitness stations not only serves to enhance residents’ physical health, but other areas of wellness as well.

Outdoor wellness programming in senior living environments has been proven to positively impact all areas of resident wellness. In this context, the term wellness takes into account the whole person, incorporating not just physical health, but also residents’ emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, social, and environmental well-being.

Open-air senior living environments now serve multiple purposes. A beautifully-landscaped community courtyard may double as a meditation garden or exercise area for yoga, tai chi, and other fitness classes. While focused on physical exercise, these activities also encourage social interaction and serve to enhance residents’ emotional, spiritual, and environmental wellness. Flower gardens maintained by community residents can be used for social and emotional wellness, or to visually enhance interior spaces by bringing nature indoors.

Recreation areas for lawn games such as bocce ball and croquet, or shuffleboard and pickle ball courts, target residents’ physical health, yet also enhance their social, occupational, and environmental wellness. Intentionally designed exterior spaces, like walking trails with fitness stations, offer less strenuous activity than lawn games but create equally impactful environmental and social experiences.

Al fresco dining with adjacent community greenhouse at Brandermill Woods in Midlothian, VA

Outdoor cooking and dining present additional opportunities for senior living wellness programming. Open-air cooking classes and demonstrations, fully-equipped outside kitchens, and al fresco dining venues are increasingly popular among senior living communities for their social, intellectual, environmental, and occupational values. Produce made available through community herb or vegetable gardens and greenhouses can be used to create a farm-to-table experience and promote healthy eating.

Meeting seniors’ wellness needs transcends physical exercise and therapy activities. Today’s residents want greater opportunities to maintain and enhance their wellness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Senior living communities are looking to the natural environment to improve residents’ lives across the spectrum of wellness, helping to provide spaces to socialize and enjoy individual and group activities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.

For more about how wellness is evolving in the senior living arena, read our latest case study, Wellness in Independent Living, available through the Wellness resource page.

To learn how Wellness might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.

IQ Home: Intentional Design for Resident Safety

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.

Championing Confidence

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.