Some hopeful signs

One of the more fascinating aspects of publishing a long-term care design annual is the chance it gives us to follow the evolution of design concepts from year to year. Now in its 13th year, DESIGN/Environments for Aging has been tracking the long-term care design state of the art since the heyday of massive nursing stations, mile-long corridors, overblown chandeliers, and grand staircases. That these unfortunate design features continue to fade from view can be attributed, at least to some extent, to the demanding, brutally honest, not easily satisfied designers and regulators who have peopled DESIGN's judging panels all these years. At least we, the publishers of these annuals, like to think so.

This publication adopted from the start the ethic of the Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE). SAGE panelists' emphasis on resident-centered design has never wavered. They are always looking for evidence that the needs and desires of residents, families, and staff are being met first and foremost, even as they change over time. This year's panel (p. 7) was no exception. They identified several indications of new directions for senior design, new accommodations to the changing marketplace. Let me touch on a couple here:

One is a trend toward community outreach and integration. The judges found some new projects increasingly opening up their designs to enhanced resident independence and interaction with the outside community. This is very much in line with developments we've followed in a larger sense in our “Environments for Aging” department over the past year: the move toward supported independence that Baby Boomers-and their parents-are demanding in these facility-averse times. It is possible to be a facility that meets modern demands. Reading about the projects that exemplify this should prove enlightening to readers contemplating survival in today's marketplace.

A trend the judges didn't notice-at least not very often-is toward sustainable, or “green,” design in long-term care facilities. Features that move toward “saving our planet”-preserving its resources, enhancing environmental quality, maximizing use of space, promoting healthiness, and the like-are not quite mainstream yet but are starting to crop up in projects. I can tell you, as a long-time editor of Long-Term Living's sister publication HEALTHCARE DESIGN, that green design is becoming a major force in the design of acute care facilities. Indeed, becoming LEED-certified by the United States Green Building Council (the ultimate recognition of sustainable design) is becoming business-as-usual in this field. Long-term care project sponsors are still working out the cost-benefit angle to this, and their involvement is still not overwhelming, or even whelming. But there are signs of it in projects you'll find here and there in this magazine.

So, read on to see how long-term care design, early 21st-century style, is playing out. Maybe you'll find new direction for your own organization's growth and development. That's an objective that hasn't changed for us in all these years. D

Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief

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Design Environments for Aging 2009 2009 March;():6

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