It has been well documented that feelings of community and social interaction have a positive impact on both mental and physical wellbeing within care homes.
Even before COVID-19, innovations within care home design have sought to fundamentally change the experiences of care home residents. It has become important to prioritise opportunities for socialisation to reduce feelings of loneliness and ensure good mental health.
One example DWA Architects has implemented is the ‘zoning’ of a large care home into a series of smaller community groups. This includes clusters of around eight bedrooms centred around shared facilities such as a day room, dining space and bathroom.
These smaller community groups, located closer to individual bedroom and living spaces, encourage more homely social settings and sense of community among residents who live within the cluster.
“Strategies such as this have also created additional benefits for dementia-care. Creating smaller social groups and closer integration between individual and shared spaces, creates more navigable familiar ‘home’ environments,” said chartered architect Rachel Trend.
Infection control boost
This strategy has improved infection control during the pandemic.
The ability to operate care home clusters as individual bubbles prevents the spread of infection without disadvantaging residents or removing their access to facilities.
Other strategies to reduce isolation can include designing corridors so that there are opportunities for social interaction between residents and staff as they move around the home. Homes are also introducing larger shared spaces for entertainment and social gatherings to engage the local community.
On a wider scale, new archetypes of design for older people are constantly being developed to suit residents of varying needs and levels of independence.
Care villages, for example, provide communal facilities alongside opportunities for more independent living. There are also co-housing schemes that focus on creating intentional communities for older people who still have their independence but can feel lonely in their existing living situations.
“As design for older people evolves over time, strategies to promote even greater levels of social interaction and community engagement for residents will continue to develop. This will ensure their long-term health and mental wellbeing,” said Trend.
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