Mandy Cooper from Mandy Cooper Design said unlike assisted living designs she has worked on in years past, the layout for this Glasswater Creek facility incorporates a number of design elements that take into account the possibility of contagious illnesses being present within the facility. More stations are included for residents to wash their hands, drinking fountains were removed from hallways, and areas where residents can interact with visiting family members are more spaced out and monitored differently. Additional spaces have been designated to accommodate residents who might have to quarantine.
Cooper said the materials and finishes used for floors in this facility are more durable and practical than those commonly used in the past. Unlike the sterile white floor designs often seen in assisted living facilities, Cooper said this facility incorporates materials that maintain the bright and airy aesthetic of the building without sacrificing durability.
Residents moving into affordable assisted living facilities like Glasswater Creek are typically older and in the process of changing their living needs, so Cooper said they require different layouts than what is seen in most other residential areas.
“Most of these residents come in and they don’t really have a lot because they’re trying to downsize,” Cooper said. “It’s a really nice setup for them to continue to live independently without having to go into full nursing care and still get the assistance they need on a daily basis.”
She said older residents also enjoy having chairs or benches placed in the middle of long hallways so they can take a rest while walking through the facility’s long corridors. Consequently, seating areas are included in Glasswater Creek hallways to give residents a place to sit down and relax.
“There are quite a few areas where were able to specifically create spaces and design for those needs and provide amenities for the residents,” Cooper said.
ADA laws and standards are different for assisted living facilities as well, so designers took into account the height of counters and width of entryways when designing Glasswater Creek. Wider doors, lower countertops, and direct pathways to areas like the bathroom are all included in this design to ensure that the facility’s end users can enjoy their spaces despite any physical limitations.
Furniture selected for assisted living facilities like Glasswater Creek must also be practical for use by an older population. For example, low modern chairs cannot be placed in these facilities because those chairs make it more difficult for older residents to sit down and get back up.
Erika Earl from RJE said her company worked closely with designers to ensure their furniture selections matches the overall design and healthcare goals for the facility. Unique furniture choices must be made when designing facilities that host older residents, Earl said, so RJE considered end-user accessibility heavily during their selection process.
Aisleways must be clear for wheelchair access, so RJE made sure they did not overpopulate communal areas with chairs or couches.
“We reduced the amount of furniture we put into the lobby to make sure there was plenty of circulation for folks who might be in a wheelchair,” Earl said.
Perhaps just as important as furniture layout in these facilities is the material of which it is made. Earl said the designs of assisted living facilities typically lean more towards healthcare than residential due to their unique population, so furniture materials must be easily cleanable, wipeable, and durable to support sustained use by older residents. Earl said much of the furniture in Glasswater Creek is made from recyclable materials.
“We wanted good durability with furniture we designed into the space,” said Earl.
Earl said with assisted living facilities, areas like dining rooms require unique furniture considerations. She said chairs in these areas should not have upholstered arm caps and should instead be made of stronger material that can withstand repeated contact with their corresponding tables. RJE considered this fact and chose chair materials that can sustain a full lifetime of use by residents.
“Furniture, although it is not fixed into the space, has to be thought of in a similar way to the fixed architecture,” Earl said. “Especially in a space like assisted living where the furniture needs to support specific needs for the end user.”
By considering the needs of an older population and implementing design elements that make life easier for Glasswater Creek residents, designers of this facility made it their mission to provide a high-quality living environment to those who are in need of assistance.
“When you walk in, you don’t think assisted living or low income,” Cooper said. “We try to design everything top notch to make the residents feel welcomed and at home and make their families feel comfortable with the environment.”