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Beyond the Nuts and Bolts of LTC Products

October 1, 2004
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The stories behind some of today's cutting-edge LTC products by Douglas J. Edwards, Assistant Editor

Procter & Gamble recently announced that Ivory soap floats because it was designed to-its buoyancy was not the result of a lucky production accident, as long has been claimed. This tidbit illustrates that products we use on an everyday basis frequently are more than just tools to get the job done: They often have interesting stories behind them. Products for long-term care are no exception. Here is just a sampling of some products relatively new to the field-some even connected to cutting-edge technologies-that have particularly interesting histories.

From Tokyo Apartments to American LTC Resident Rooms The CITY MULTI« heating and cooling system from Mitsubishi Electric was introduced more than 20 years ago in Asia, where high energy prices and small living units cause people to only heat and cool rooms they use (unlike Americans' habit of heating and cooling entire buildings). To address these factors, CITY MULTI was designed to be a "zoned" system, meaning it can heat one space while cooling another, thereby being energy efficient and serving multiple living spaces. Chuck Applebee, a product manager for Mitsubishi Electric's HVAC Advanced Products Division, which introduced the latest line-the CITY MULTI R2 series-in the United States this year, notes that residents of U.S. nursing homes and assisted living facilities live in similarly small spaces, and the zoned system can offer long-term care residents custom climate control for their rooms. He also suspects budget-conscious American long-term care administrators will appreciate the system's energy-efficient features, originally designed for Asians' concerns over electricity costs, as prices continue to rise in the United States.

Furniture and Seating Innovations Incorporating fighter-jet technology into geriatric furniture. As incredible as it may sound, a line of geriatric outdoor furniture shares technology with the Air Force's famed stealth bomber. Fincastle Chair, LLC, founder Tim Maloney discovered while working at the Department of Energy that the principles used to render the stealth bomber invisible to radar could be used to make furniture "invisible" to the sun. Years of testing led to Andure« titanium/resin alloy, from which Fincastle makes its furniture. Weather-impervious, products made from Andure are guaranteed to never rot, rust, peel, crack, chip, yellow, or need painting. The furniture is easy to clean and offers "permanent cleanability," has antibacterial properties, and has a solid structure, adds Maloney.

Transforming vinyl from drab to fab. Vinyl seating has been a mainstay of long-term care facilities because it's easy to clean and stands up to wear. Yet it has not been the most physically attractive option for today's homelike environments because vinyl traditionally has been manufactured in single colors or simple patterns. "Our design options were somewhat limited based on the available technology," explains Doug Mc-Clendon, vice-president of marketing for vinyl upholstery manufacturer Morbern, Inc. "We could only make vinyls look a certain way. You could always still tell aesthetically that it was a vinyl."

To give designers more options, Morbern spent 22 months developing new manufacturing technology. Whereas vinyl with striped patterns was not possible with the older technology, now stripes, intricate patterns, and even complicated logos are possible with Morbern's (u)phoria!Ö vinyl. This technology enables designers to submit their own artwork, which can be designed onto the vinyl with virtually no limitations. Therefore, designers can dream up any pattern for a vinyl application.

"Vinyl has historically been thought of as institutional or utilitarian. There was a thought process that people only used vinyl when they had to because the conditions required it. Now you can use it not only because you have to, but because it works with your design theme," notes McClendon. "You no longer have to sacrifice aesthetics for performance or performance for aesthetics. You can have both."

Hunting for fabric protection. W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., also offers new seating options for long-term care facilities with its GOREÖ Seating Protection. The idea for this product came up during a hunting trip, in which a person associated with the furniture industry lamented the lack of a durable moisture barrier for furnishings, recalls Gore Associate Jackie Boatwright. The other hunter, dressed in clothing protected by GORE-TEX«, suggested they contact Gore to see if the company could help them out. GORE Seating Protection was eventually born.