By Maria Tibblin, Scandinavian Interior Designer for Health & Wellbeing and Holistic Design Director at MARIA TIBBLIN LTD (www.mariatibblin.com)
“Covid-19 has forced us rethink and redesign our approach to spaces that offer care facilites; and to embrace design that improves our wellbeing and increases lev- els of human satisfaction. It’s provided us with a fresh opportunity to reset some of our values, creating new business models where aesthetically beautiful environments are seamlessly integrated with health and safety attributes. This is particularly important with regards to the care sector. ” – Maria Tibblin.
As a holistic Interior designer with a specific background in medicine and Public Health, I consciously create sustainable and natural deluxe environments for the retail, hospitality, health, wellness, and care sectors. I do this using a unique system called ‘The Five Senses Design approach’. This holistic approach stimulates the human senses and increase human satisfaction.
I believe that the future of the care home industry lies in a fresh and long-term approach, which puts human-centric design front and centre. With a rapidly ageing population, and general lack of strategic reform in the public sector, it is likely that the industry will see a new wave of providers emerge, who will compete for contracts based on a number of criteria, which will include quality, safety and reputation.
No matter who we are, when we are unwell or growing old, we all need a bit of extra love. The care home sector is one that is often neglected. From rehabilitation and respite care to day-care, short-stay, group homes for those with dementia to more general elderly living facilities.
I have a positive design vision that challenges preconceived ideas for a complex and ageing society. Having worked within both medical and private health care, I know of the importance of a positive environment and client/patient journey.
There is absolutely no reason that care homes, whether they offer day-care, respite or specialist dementia care services can’t also look and feel like a high end residence.
I passionately believe that care homes can be designed to make residents and their visitors feel better. Enriched spaces that encourage intergenerational socialisation; where residents can feel relaxed and comfortable whilst giving peace of mind for their families that the spaces they occupy also meet all the correct legislative criteria too.
Working with private and public health care providers I provide an assessment of spaces and make recommendations about how to create supportive and life enhancing schemes.
Some of the elements that could be used in this new approach to design for care homes could include:
LAYOUTS AND CREATING SAFE SPACES AND ‘ZONES’
Safe social distancing is something we will have to live with going forward; it will be a key factor in any design scheme of the future. I recommend using some simple solutions such as supportive occasional chairs instead of sofas and carefully placing side tables between seating spaces.
Clear movement protocols should be agreed in advance such as clearly marked traffic ‘flow’ systems for people walking through communal spaces, and clear well-designed signage indicating how many guests can safely occupy any given space.
CLEANLINESS AND HYGIENE
Cleaning surfaces and good hygiene practice are paramount in any care facility. As a designer, I can help clients to properly understand the footfall ‘journey’ of a given space, and then create a bespoke design to work for the safest ‘flow’. I also recommend selecting from a range of natural and sustainable materials that are easy to clean, and which often have additional anti-microbial properties. Options for these don’t have to be sourced from the usual suppliers, but can be selected for their aesthetic look as well as their functional benefits.
Simple design elements such as touch-free sanitisation options can be aesthetically pleasing.
Educating staff and employees is also fundamental consideration. Educate staff as to why cleanliness guidelines are important and show them how to implement them properly to a high standard, with regular checks. This is such a simple action we can all take.
Air quality and biophilic design
As a holistic designer, I have always looked for ways to incorporate fresh clean air into my schemes. I’m seeing an increase in requests for things like air purifiers or air filtration exchange systems, or for light wells with access to fresh air. I always prefer to work with an architect from early stages in the design process to built these into schemes. In addition there are also simple ways to improve air quality by using plants and vegetation too.
Plants help us to feel relaxed and recuperate by reconnecting us with the natural world; they also offer tangible psychological benefits such as stress reduction and improved creativity or concentration. They help to improve air quality, ventilation and can help to reduce the toxin levels in the air.
COLOUR AND CREATIVITY
Anxiety will remain high, as we emerge from the recent pandemic, but are mindful that more could follow. Pared-back colour palettes are a subtle way to help people feel relaxed and calm. I would also recommend investments in beautiful handmade artisanal and natural products to decorate interior spaces. Sourcing locally from designer-makers, also helps with community engagement. These make us feel good whilst supporting craftspeople and small artistic communities whilst also keeping vital multi-generational creative skills alive.
We have seen a big leap in technological advances in recent times. From smart integrated systems such as voice controlled sensor con- trolled taps to audio, lighting and air devices as well as features including voice-activated booking systems, through to digital methods of engagement such as virtual events, art shows and meetings, we can increase the use of integrated technology to help us stay safe and healthy.
Sensory touches are fundamental to the holistic design approach, take music for example, it is such an important element for the sick and the elderly. In the specific case of Dementia patients it has been actively proven to help stimulate memories, and spark the imagination. Using special technology this can be zoned area-by-area or room-by- room. Likewise selecting furnishing accessories that provide tactility or allowing an area where pets can be introduced will encourage interactions and bring about positive feelings in patients.