We are seeing an increase in the construction of alternative accommodation - nursing and residential care homes - for older people, focusing on those with complex physical or medical care needs.
And it is especially so for those with moderate or severe dementia, as the majority of residents placed within care homes will be living with this condition.
It is, therefore, vital to include dementia-friendly design principles within any care home environment.
According to Dementia UK, there are currently 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with the number expected to increase.
To meet increasing demand from customers for modern and specialist accommodation, care providers will have to reassess their building stock to refurbish comprehensively or build new homes that meet the standards and expectations of customers.
The modern care home must incorporate design principles which focus on promoting wellbeing and independence; and any design elements implemented should support, encourage, and enable people with dementia
The modern care home must incorporate design principles which focus on promoting wellbeing and independence; and any design elements implemented should support, encourage, and enable people with dementia.
Research shows that care home residents want a good quality of life and have expectations about maintaining the living standards they are used to.
And, in addition to high-quality care, older people now, and in the future, want access to modern living environments.
They want well-designed spaces that do not look or feel institutional. And these places must be designed to be accessible, adaptable, attractive, comfortable, energy efficient, and manageable, with access to well-maintained outside space and welcoming communal areas.
When considering the design of new facilities, or the refurbishment of existing care homes, specifiers must consider flooring design and materials as much as most other building elements if they are to achieve the ‘gold standard’ in design.
With legislation not yet in place to ensure high-quality, fit-for-purpose flooring is in use throughout in care facilities; it is up to product manufacturers to highlight the standard to aspire to, based on research and best practice in healthcare in the UK and internationally.
Ensuring safety and promoting hygiene
Quality care home design must incorporate clear sightlines, even and bright lighting, good acoustics, noise reduction measures, anti-slip surfaces, uncluttered spaces, and a distinct contrast between walls and floors, furniture, and other objects.
With legislation not yet in place to ensure high-quality, fit-for-purpose flooring is in use throughout in care facilities; it is up to product manufacturers to highlight the standard to aspire to
For older people, and those with dementia, impairments to sight, hearing, and mobility will mean they are more vulnerable to falls.
And badly-designed spaces can cause users to lose confidence as well as impair memory, reasoning, learning, and cause stress.
Good design, on the other hand, will ease decision making, promote safety, reduce agitation and stress, and encourage independence and social interaction, leading to better outcomes.
Flooring that promotes health and wellbeing, as well as meeting the aforementioned design characteristics, is perfect for care homes.
Flooring made from cork, for example, has proven attributes to reduce acoustic noise by up to 50%, maximise natural light, improve indoor air quality, and it is hygienic, easy to clean, and highly impact resistant for everyday use.
The natural elasticity in cork and compressibility provides added cushioning ideal for care homes as it aids mobility by reducing the pressure and impact on joints. It is also highly energy efficient due to its innate thermal insulation properties.
Cork flooring has proven acoustic properties and helps to improve indoor air quality as well as being easy to clean
The gold standard
Cork flooring is made up of different layers to meet the qualities described.
The top layer has a decorative cork veneer or a wood visual which is then protected by an PV-free, UV-cured protective wear layer.
It reduces walking sound by up to 53% and impact sound by 16dB-18dB.
And its thermal insulation qualities helps to maintain an optimal temperature all year round and make it more comfortable to walk on.
Good design will ease decision making, promote safety, reduce agitation and stress, and encourage independence and social interaction, leading to better outcomes
Cork is also the perfect balance between hard and soft floors and plays an important role in reducing body fatigue and promoting movement.
In addition, it is hypoallergenic, making it easy to maintain and enables it to meet the strictest international standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Cork flooring achieves an air quality credit in the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) via Greenguard Gold, which is the highest certification possible in the US, indicating suitability for healthcare facilities.
French certification A+ indicates the lowest possible levels of VOCs and TÜV-PROFICERT is a transnational certificate indicating air quality and VOC emissions.
While it may not be possible to comprehensively refurbish an existing care home to meet all the required design elements, changing elements such as the flooring can have a profound impact in creating a more-supportive environment for elderly people and those with dementia.