Thoughtful design approaches that maximize the efficient and safe use of a senior living environment help to ensure better outcomes and an enhanced experience for patients, residents, and staff.
By 2035, older adults are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. This demographic transformation caused by a rapidly aging population is new for the United States. With this swelling number of older adults, the country could see greater demands for healthcare, in-home caregiving, and assisted living facilities.
As part of the design process for senior living spaces, it is important to evaluate interior finishes holistically to ensure selections meet performance requirements. The Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) provides guidance on health and residential care facility planning, design, and construction. Within the guidelines, there are criteria for selecting surface materials that include the consideration of three specific areas related to flooring:
Light and Contrast, Glare, and Pattern and Texture.
Example of a recommended tonal transition of materials - carpet to LVT
For people with low vision, contrast is an important contextual clue that signals transitions between flooring types. Its subtleties can help make building users feel comfortable and confident.
For example, the use of contrast inappropriately — such as high contrast between two flooring surfaces in the same plane — can be perceived as holes, wet surfaces, or a change in height of a floor surface. This can contribute to fall risk for those with low vision. Instead, using tonal patterns between two adjoining surfaces is the better choice for universal design.
LRV is used to create appropriate contrast between surfaces. Thirty (30) points difference in LRV between a horizontal surface and a vertical surface provides appropriate contrast.
Another important factor for contrast is Light Reflectivity Value (LRV), which describes the percentage of light falling on a surface and the light that reflects away from that surface. LRV is used to create appropriate contrast between surfaces, and 30 points difference in LRV between a horizontal surface and a vertical surface provides appropriate contrast that allows users to understand where a surface stops and starts.
LRV is available for all Armstrong Flooring products. These values can conveniently be found on each product page in the Information Library section. A downloadable PDF is available in the Sustainability section of each product page, providing all the necessary LRV information to make informed design and flooring selections.
Glare in any space — caused by direct artificial lighting or natural daylight — can contribute to fall risk, lighting discomfort, difficulty seeing clearly, and impact those with vision issues. Unfortunately, in some healthcare settings, shiny floors are perceived as cleaner than matte finish floors.
However, with the popularity and specification of products that don’t require polish in healthcare spaces, there is an advancement of busting the myth that “shiny equals clean.” Products like Armstrong Flooring luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and vinyl sheet don’t require polish, and through the elimination of waxing and stripping, glare is reduced and indoor air quality improved as well.
Example of a transition strip between carpet and resilient flooring.
Pattern and texture can be used within universally designed spaces if the color and pattern doesn’t create too high of a contrast. For example, if a flooring product has a busy pattern in highly contrasting colors, it can “move” or be perceived as having various depths or changes in level within a floor surface. This can be disconcerting to anyone, but particularly those that have low vision or vertigo issues and can create a fall risk.
The goal is to use pattern and colors that have the same tone of finish (tonal), which means that the adjacent surfaces don’t create a contrast that can be perceived as a change in surface height. Sheet products like Medintone and Medintech are designed with complementary tones well suited for senior living facilities.
Using tonal patterns and materials in conjunction with zero height transitions between materials is the optimum condition when installing flooring. In Armstrong Flooring’s collection of products, VCT, Natural Creations with Diamond 10 Technology, and Rejuvenations Restore with Diamond 10 Technology are all 3.2 mm thick and don’t require a transition strip between flooring types.
Unleashed LVT offers seamless transition to carpet in adjoining spaces thanks to its 5.0 mm structure. For LVT that is less than 5.0 mm, transition strips may be necessary to ensure a smooth and gapless transition.
Thoughtful design approaches that maximize the efficient and safe use of a senior living environment help to ensure better outcomes and an enhanced experience for patients, residents, and staff. Evaluating material like flooring in a holistic way impacts the success of inclusive environments.
For more information and resources to support the design and development of inclusive environments for senior living and healthcare spaces, download our whitepaper, Designing for Senior Living.