Greater Compassion Needed in Assisted Living Facility Design
The Sleepover Project: Post #1, Sleeper #1
Our first findings come from Sleeper #1, a normally able-bodied, 31-year-old senior living designer at D2 Architecture in Dallas, Texas.On May 11, Sleeper #1 entered Cummings Assisted Living in Fort Worth, Texas, transforming into the roll of an 85 year-old resident who was recovering from a broken hip. She was mobile by foot through the use of her walker. In her “real” life she wasn’t previously aware of how incredibly frustrating and challenging it would be to use a walker. Until now…
With her sketchpad and pens laying on the seat of her walker (a transportation technique she learned from observing fellow residents), Sleeper #1 set out for her maiden stroll. Paying close attention to the affects of every movement she made with the walker – from going over the smallest bump in the floor to opening a door and crossing its threshold – the struggles of senior living became ever apparent.Realizing that the walker essentially doubled the surface area that her body took up on the floor, she found her maneuverability quite challenging. In small spaces like showers and bathrooms, her maneuverability became exceedingly challenging since there wasn’t always enough room for her and the walker to explore a full range of motion. In rooms and areas designed to comply with ADA regulations and with seemingly ample space, she found the act of pulling a door open was most difficult. In her studio apartment for example, the narrow width of the corridor inside the unit made it a challenge to exit the apartment with the walker. “It was like dancing with the door,” she says. It didn’t help matters that some threshold detailing protruded half an inch above the floor, making it difficult to push the walker over the uneven surface.
Sleeper #1 learned that with the walker in the way, she was forced to go back and forth while pivoting her body – practically doing a full circle just to go through a doorway. Also, how the doors operate became an increasing concern for her. She couldn’t help to think that while it would be more expensive, automating the door through push button technology would be much safer, simpler, and comfortable for residents.