Sol Harris Day Architecture

Interior Design: Keeping Current (Senior Living)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010
By Yvette Zingery, Partner - Interior Design Leader

Presented at SCAAN Conference: September 22, 2010

What considerations should be taken into account when designing an interior space for a person-centered care facility? Sometimes finding the answers to this question can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Connecting with the right professionals can make all the difference in figuring out your needs and how to achieve the desired result.

Yvette Otterman and Bill Griffith of SōL Harris/Day Architecture, and Liz Kuhner of Mannington Commercial shared their insights on lighting, light sources, interior finishes, flooring, and creating overall comfort at the Stark County Area Administrators Network Conference (SCAAN) in September.

A few general rules and "tips" presented:

- Lighting is an important factor for designing an environment for seniors with impaired vision. The most successfully lit environments include a combination of natural light, overhead (general) light and task light.

- Many considerations need to be taken into account when specifying lighting for senior care facilities, including the age of the residents and various eye coniditions and diseases.

- It is crucial to decrease glare and increase contrast for residents by using matte finishes and color to differentiate elements in the resident's environment.

- Be cautious in using too much pattern on the floor. Sharp changes in floor finishes or highly patterned carpet can confuse visually impaired residents and lead to falls.

- Avoid trip hazards for residents by making sure furniture is away from paths of travel. Keep surfaces clutter free.

The three most common flooring options for senior living environments (carpet, resilient, and porcelain tile) were also discussed. It is important to choose your flooring wisely, keeping more than just the budget in mind. Additional factors to consider include: understanding your resident, cleanablity of the product, overall maintenance required, and the life cycle and sustainability of the material.

To achieve a sense of comfort for residents, they must feel in control of their environment. Some suggestions for increasing a feeling of independence for the resident include: allowing control of lighting and temperature whenever possible, providing access to the outdoors, and using wayfinding clues such as clocks, signage, and recognizable artwork.

Concluding the presentation, design concepts were shown to illustrate how to incorporate some of these suggestions into an existing facility. For a complete copy of the presentation, contact Bill Griffith at

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