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Not Your Grandma’s Senior Living

November 16, 2022

by Laura Kreher | Assoc. IIDA, LEED Green Associate | Designer | Art Associate

As a Gen-Z designer, I sometimes wonder, “What do I know about designing for seniors?” Then I take a step back and realize it’s quite simple; I need to design for myself.

What a Senior Wants

Before you think I’m wildly selfish in that thought, let me explain. I don’t mean design for myself in the way that I favor wood floors over carpet, or any other finish type for that matter. Instead, design in the abstract sense of how a space can not only meet but encourage my desired lifestyle.

I recently watched a webinar called “Accelerating Evolution – The Next Generation of Environments for Aging” that sparked this thought. During this webinar, the statement was made “Senior design is universal design…they are not the other. What they want is close to what YOU want.” 1 That comment made me consider what I want from my current and future living environments.

Here are my expectations:

  • comfort
  • care
  • socialization/interaction with people different than myself
  • safety
  • creativity and the means to explore it
  • to learn and try new things
  • beauty
  • convenience
  • diversity
  • independence

I know I’m not alone in these desires. I know that because these are not deeply personal aspirations – they are basic human needs. Because “at our core, we need to be with people to be healthy.”My current wants are no different from what my silent generation grandmother wants or even my baby boomer parents.

If you ask a senior why they are hesitant on moving to a senior living community, most of them have a similar answer; they are concerned they are sacrificing any of the above expectations of living. Unfortunately, many do when they make this pivotal move, and feel as though they are unable to do anything about it. But there is an entirely new generation entering the senior living age. Unlike their parent’s generation, they won’t remain silent.

Tick, Tick…Baby Boom

While the tail end of baby boomers are on the horizon of packing up their offices, the generational leaders are prepping to pack up their homes. This takeover of a new generation in the senior living environment will surely invoke change. We know these new members have high expectations and will not settle for less (rightfully so, might I add). “They will define senior living design and advocate for their wants.” 1 With 50% of people born today having a life expectancy of 100, 1 having enough space is another concern.

Great Expectations

Meeting the great expectations of incoming boomers can be achieved through many factors such as staff interaction, community programs, or design of space to name a few. Integration and utilization of nearby resources is key. Neighboring communities can share large amenities like pools and libraries. Nearby colleges can offer course credits for students to host classes for seniors – or flip the switch and let a senior share their expertise. For a more controlled environment, it is easy enough to draw the public in. Storefronts in a senior living community can be rented out and managed by outside companies, whether it be a coffee shop or a yoga studio. There can be a front door for the public and a back door for residents, allowing a full multi-generational and multi-use space.Similar to many hotels, a community’s lobby can house a bar or dining venue, with full access to the public. This gives residents socialization in a controlled location. While this concept works best in an urban setting, rural areas can implement this concept as well. Senior communities can partner with local golf courses and community colleges. Churches, youth groups, and community garden clubs can interact with senior living communities. I know any town, no matter the size, will always welcome a new dining venue.

In addition to the quality of life, these concepts help address the concern of ever-growing cost and ever-declining space. As sprawling floor plans become more of a luxury, multi-use reduces space, reduces costs, increases sustainable design practices, and increases benefits. Another model to assist with the upcoming population boom is to have commuters, just like college. Allow seniors to have day passes to a community; they partake in activities and socialization but are still able to live at home. Allowing them to slowly ease into the transition of living environments.

It’s time to reshape our perception of senior living. It’s not about designing for the senior living industry but the industry of creating environments for older adults. 1 We must empower this population to continue to grow and thrive; to live meaningful lives. It’s time to redefine the living of senior living.

Sources:

  1. The Center for Health Design Webinar: Accelerating Evolution- The Next Generation of Environments for Aging

Ways to Improve Infection Prevention

October 20, 2022

by Christa Barr | IIDA, CHID, EDAC, NCIDQ | Project Manager | Senior Designer

After making it through a pandemic, more people realize how vital infection prevention is to all our public environments. This is not a new concept for those in the healthcare field since 5% of all hospital admissions result in a healthcare-associated infection (HAI), or approximately 722,000 infections and 75,000 deaths (NCDHHS).

So, what are three ways an organization can improve on infection prevention?

  1. Focus on using materials that are non-porous with minimal seams and transitions. Moisture can collect in joints and allows bacteria to grow. For example, if you are selecting a restroom wall finish and are using a porcelain tile it would be best to choose a tile that is a larger format or slab (gauge size) to reduce the number of grout lines or seams. Also, using appropriate transitions between the wall and floor like a Schluter strip will make cleaning easier.
  2. Finishes that are stain and water-resistant are also key. When a material absorbs a stain or water then it can become a host to bacteria and be difficult to clean or disinfect. If you’ve ever spilled a drink on a chair cushion you know how tough it is to completely remove all the stain and moisture.
  3. Surfaces that are highly durable will also help you avoid infections. If you can prevent scratches or grooves on a surface, you are also preventing another location where moisture can pool and grow bacteria. It is also very difficult to clean and disinfect inside a very small scratch. If you have a choice between a natural stone or a solid surface face on a reception desk the solid surface will be more resilient to any bumps and continue looking great for a long time.

Having a beautiful and clean space for years to come is always a goal for any project.

Is it OK to take a Mental Health Day?

October 10, 2022

by Amy Shoemaker | EDAC | Senior Designer

In honor of World Mental Health Day, let’s discuss prioritizing mental health and personal well-being. In a culture that advocates physical wellness as the pinnacle of health, it may not come as a surprise that many Americans allow their mental health to fall to the wayside. For years, the US work ethic has promoted a culture of sick days for the use of “physical illness or serious mental health disorders”2 as the norm. Though after two years in a pandemic-saturated, politically fierce, and socially-WOKE climate, the need for addressing mental health as a major component of overall wellness is finally being recognized. Perhaps the best defense, or more appropriately offense, in supporting your mental health at work is embracing the Mental Health Day.

The daily stress that is endured both in and out of work put an enormous strain on our psychological state, which can in turn affect us physiologically. It is no secret that compounded stress alone can lead to physical illness as well as emotional distress. Therefore, it is essential to take a break when you are feeling overwhelmed, drained, or just plain tired. The intentional act of taking a Mental Health Day allows you to recharge both emotionally and physically, which in turn “mitigates the effects of work stress”2 and should be considered a “preventative health care measure.”2

Employers that offer PTO benefits, especially those that do not distinguish between “vacation” and “sick” time, lead the way in promoting a healthy balance between work responsibilities and mental downtime. Though often stigmatized, the Mental Health Day is a day to take care of yourself – a forced break from responsibilities. In a 2019 national poll taken by the American Heart Association (prior to the dreaded Covid Pandemic even starting), 76% of employees “struggled with at least one issue that affected their mental health.”1 You are clearly not alone. Use those hours, use those days – mental health days count.

Enjoying some family downtime in the North Carolina Mountains! Being in the trees is my happy place.

 

If you are interested in reading more about the importance of prioritizing your mental health, please check out these references for more information.

Sources:

  1. American Hearth Association CEO Roundtable
  2. Yes Wellbeing Works

Staying On Brand: The Inside Scoop on Branded Environments

September 29, 2022

by Liz Tung | EDAC | Marketing Coordinator | Art Associate

Today, social media influencers work hard to publicize their personal brand – whether it be as an affordable fashion expert, amateur chef, or travel connoisseur – sometimes, they even go as far as creating a brand identity for a beloved pet. Influencers are able to build a following through their unique insight and knowledge on a specific topic. So, very much like a major household name brand like “Nike”, these influencers gain consumer buy-in through credibility. With a rise in touchpoints via social media, brand and identity are more important than ever before. Building a brand within a physical space is just another way to drive a message home. But what does it look like to have a branded environment?

A branded environment provides a space where people have a meaningful experience and connection. It uses the physical environment to bring values, culture, and vision to life. 1 This is accomplished by combining multiple disciplines like graphic design, interior design, and architecture. It’s about understanding what a company’s brand stands for and translating this into the built environment. When done well, visually experiencing a branded environment communicates the corporate identity without the need for additional verbal explanation.

Apple is one of the best examples of a company that successfully brands its environments. As a company, Apple is innovative, sleek, and modern. Everything in their store reflects these core traits. Their product, furniture, displays, and check-in/out process directly tie back to their brand mission statement: “to bring the best user experience to its customers…”. 2 The Apple logo is used sparingly in the store; with such a strong brand identity, even if they removed their logo, consumers would be able to identify what store they were browsing.

Apple Store/View Apart/Shutterstock.com

 

Things to Consider When Defining Your Brand:

  • What is the brand’s personality? Voice? Purpose?
  • How is the brand different?
  • What story is being told?
  • Who is the ideal customer?
  • Who will use the space? Who is the “audience”?
  • How will they use the space?
  • List adjectives for your company.

 

Show Not Tell.
People should be able to walk into your space and immediately identify your values through feeling. In this way, the environment becomes a physical expression of what you stand for as a company. Create an environment that demonstrates your dedication to your work, the principles you align with, and the people who work for and with you.

First, it is essential to define your brand. Your company is more than a logo, color, and fonts. Similarly, branded spaces are more than a logo on a wall, designing with company colors, giving everyone a mug with your logo, or hanging up your company mission statement. The key is to know exactly who you are and what your brand is. When defining your brand, an excellent place to start is by listing adjectives to describe your company and how you want people to feel (i.e. casual, luxurious, or innovative?); take these and apply them to the design.

 

Definitely Do Not Yell.
Your space does not have to be all about YOU to showcase your brand. The design should be immersive and authentic. If you create genuine connections with the space – a spark of joy – this will make it memorable. If your brand is in people’s faces, the message becomes watered down and is less impactful. Make sure to capture the essence of who you are and don’t be so literal.

 

Branded Environments For All.
You might think, “Our company isn’t Apple,” or even “We aren’t retail, so this doesn’t apply.” Branded environments apply to all markets, not just retail, hospitality, or corporate spaces. It is important to build a connection, and for your space to reflect your company. It also helps with brand recognition. One of the most significant benefits of a branded environment is its first impression on clients. Consumers, clients, and employees all expect more. With social media making it easier to discover businesses that go above and beyond, it’s no longer enough to have a nice space if you want to truly excel.

Branded environments can also help improve engagement. Employees want to feel valued and like they belong; in return, they will buy into a company. In hospitality markets, branded environments help create an immersive experience that entertains and connects consumers. In a healthcare environment, branded environments focus on the patient experience.

Healthcare facilities can be hectic and stressful, but branded health spaces help promote joy and positivity throughout a facility with their design and function. Senior living communities have a unique opportunity to create brands within a brand, given the overall community’s principles and all the amenities within. No matter the function of the space, it is important for the company’s mission and core values to be embodied in the physical environment.

The next time you visit a business, take a minute to think about the experience – do you like what the space communicates about the company’s brand?

 

Resources:
1 PressOn
2Apple

Spellman Brady & Co. Completes Custom Artwork for PayneCrest Electric

September 27, 2022

Spellman Brady & Company, an award-winning interior design firm, has completed a customized artwork package for PayneCrest’s prefabrication facility, “Prefab”, in St. Louis, MO.  Spellman Brady was responsible for commissioning several unique pieces for the artwork package which reflects PayneCrest Electric’s unique corporate identity.

The PayneCrest Electric Prefab is a 33,000 sq ft warehouse where conduit bending, rough-in products, welding, painting, strut assemblies and other fabrication services are provided.  This space also houses offices for the engineers who develop and design these products/services.  PayneCrest asked Spellman Brady to create a customized art package reflecting the company’s brand and the specialized services they offer.

The overall design concept was to celebrate the industrial elements for which PayneCrest Electric is known and incorporate those into the mediums and substrates of the art pieces.  The color palette for the artwork was inspired by a walk-through held at the project kick-off.  The primary palette is influenced by the red and blue corporate logo, while the secondary colors of neon-saturated pink, orange, green, and turquoise reflect the colors found within PayneCrest’s electric wiring products and their engineering software.

Individuals entering the office are met with an impressive metal piece that guides them down the hall and through the entire space. This piece, inspired by the company’s outdoor Prefab sign, is made of conduit and metal mesh, and was used as the substrate to hang photographs of their installed projects. The metal-printed photographs of completed projects serve to tell PayneCrest’s story. Photos walk the viewer through key phases of a successful project and showcase the quality work completed by the company’s skilled employees.

Above the workstations in the engineers’ office space, an undulating art installation made of painted conduit is on display. The colors were pulled straight from software programs the engineers use daily, bringing their digital work to life in 3D. The PayneCrest team doubled as collaborators using their conduit bending, welding, and painting skills on this piece as well as the metal installation in the hallway.

The mural in the Prefab warehouse area near the loading dock was also inspired by the secondary color palette. The painted graphic lines are a nod to conduit and electrical wires and also represent a stylized version of the company logo.

In the training room, local artists created a Louise Nevelson-inspired assemblage piece comprised of electrical components including wire, electrical switches, boxes, plugs, conduits, tools, etc. This piece pulls the viewer in closely to see what lies within the intricate details of the found-object sculpture. It demonstrates all of the little pieces that unite make a larger statement. The training room also boasts a custom vinyl wallcovering showcasing one of PayneCrest’s projects mid construction.

PayneCrest’s brand is clearly demonstrated throughout the entire artwork package. The artwork is seamlessly incorporated into the interiors and helps bring the company values and culture to life. This effective communication of the corporate identity inspires employee loyalty and a sense of pride and accomplishment. PayneCrest is known for creative problem-solving and the production of high-quality products. Walking through the office and fabrication area helps visitors understand how the artwork package parallels this expertise.

PayneCrest Electric is an award-winning electrical contractor serving commercial and industrial customers nationwide.  It provides customer-focused solutions that safely and proficiently deliver highly complex electrical and communications projects for national commercial and industrial customers.

Spellman Brady & Company is an award-winning St. Louis-based interior design firm specializing in senior living, healthcare, higher education, and multi-family environments. The firm maintains design excellence by delivering comprehensive, space planning, interior design, furniture, artwork master planning and procurement services. As a Certified WBE Business, Spellman Brady & Company has completed more than 6,300 projects in forty-three states and abroad since its founding 27 years ago.

 

Originally published by Saint Louis CNR – Construction News and Review.

Living with Dementia & How Good Design Can Help

September 7, 2022

by Trisha Hale | IIDA, NCIDQ | Designer

More than 7 million Americans aged 65 and older are living with dementia, many suffering from one of the most progressive forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s. While this mind-altering disease impacts a vast number of individuals each year, I wanted to share my own story so those who have not been personally affected can gain a better understanding of dementia. I would also like to offer insight on the positive impact good design can have on a living environment from my unique perspective as an Interior Designer specializing in the senior living market.

Many people hear the term “memory care” and don’t fully understand its meaning. Memory care is a higher level of care in a senior living community where the resident has suffered the loss of their memory retention from the progressive disease, Alzheimer’s (or another form of dementia). This level of care consists of higher trained staff, greater security measures and limited independence to protect the safety of at-risk residents while also providing them with the best quality of life despite their impairments.

My beautiful grandmother, Patricia, lived comfortably in a large house in Holiday Shores, IL for most of her adult life.  A mother of 6, avid baker and self-taught seamstress, she is one of the most self-sufficient and creative people I know. My family moved her into a care community a few years ago after we noticed she was not taking care of herself the way she used to; for instance, she stopped cooking and became increasingly forgetful. Her official diagnosis was short-term dementia, which affects short-term memory, the slowing of brain cell communication that presents itself in forgetting how to do menial tasks like cooking, cleaning, and recalling recently-learned information. She’s fortunate enough to still understand the world around her and is able to perform basic tasks so she resides in an assisted living community. She is, however, in a community where if her dementia worsens, she can be transitioned into memory care and will already be familiar with the community, staff and residents.

Grandma Pat

My husband’s wonderful grandmother, “Gigi”, was also recently diagnosed with short-term dementia. A couple of falls, a broken hip, and two brain bleeds later she is, unfortunately, unable to recall some of the most basic things. This woman that was a wife, mother, grandmother, professional cleaner, extremely organized, stubborn, independent, comical, and a notably caring and considerate person, changed in what felt like a moment. She now lives in a memory care community, and through my own experience with my grandmother, Pat, I have a much better understanding of what the families and residents are facing. It is hard to see your loved ones transform from the vibrant person they once were. That is why it is so important these communities are designed purposefully and appropriately to allow residents to live comfortably while assuring their families are getting the care they need and deserve.

In some of the memory care communities Spellman Brady & Company has worked on, we have designed “reminiscence rooms”, which are areas for residents to explore to jog memories of everyday life. These areas include “life stations” such as dolls to rock, feed, and care for, costumes to play make-believe, laundry to fold and iron, and a writing desk to draft letters. We heard from one senior living location that a resident sat at the desk station every day, writing hall passes, as it brought back memories of his days as a school principal. It’s vastly important to remember these residents had long, beautiful lives before they were touched by dementia. As much as we can do to spark even the smallest memory it can provide residents with a little bit of comfort and normalcy. Our goal as senior living interior designers is to maintain residents’ dignity while also providing safe and nurturing environments for them to thrive.

Here is Gigi, who was so excited to become a great grandma and absolutely loves “her” great-grand babies. Her community makes sure she always has a baby doll to hold and care for as this brings her abundant happiness. When we visit her, she doesn’t always remember us, but if we bring our little ones she lights up.

To find out more about dementia & Alzheimer’s – and how you can help affect the trajectory of these life-altering diseases – visit the Alzheimer’s Association online or considering giving to our fundraiser supporting the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Steps & Tips for Successful Resident Design Committee Involvement

August 18, 2022

by Beth Arokoyo | IIDA, NCIDQ | Project Manager & Senior Designer

When planning a renovation project for a senior living community, most owners and design team members know the importance of resident involvement to ensure the success of the renovation.  If a space that is currently occupied by residents is getting a refresh or complete re-design, you can count on resident feedback once the project is under way.  Naturally they want to have some input on what is happening – this is their home, and they pay to live in this home.

However, successful design by committee requires a few basic steps.

Step 1 – Build the Committee

Ideally, committee members should have differing viewpoints and include influential residents in the community.  It is not effective to have a large group of residents that always agree with one another.  Keeping the group small while still representing the voices of women, men, those that are open to change and those that are more resistant, is ideal.  This mixture will provide the best results in the end!

The creatives at Nuera Marketing point out that “The downside of adding more viewpoints, is when members attempt to demonstrate their value by throwing up unqualified challenges to thoughtful work.”  This can undo hours of creative effort by design professionals.  It can also have a negative impact on project budget and schedule. The thoughtful team at Justinmind encourage that “the people involved in a design project should be pushing towards a common goal, not competing to get their agenda implemented.”

Carefully selecting the committee to include members that understand and value the “big picture” will help keep the project on track. The “big picture” in this case includes not just current resident opinions, but also budget, timeline, and marketability to future residents and their families.

Step 2 – Introductions to the Design Team

When owners introduce a resident committee to the project design team, the best opportunity for success lies in good communication.  The residents need to have access to the qualifications of the designers so they can begin to build trust and respect for the design professionals before seeing a presentation.  We have even been interviewed by a resident committee prior to being hired for a renovation project!

Explaining what roles each design team member plays is helpful too – clarifying what the architect does versus interior designers will help guide questions to the right people.

Step 3 – Establish the Ground Rules

Rules for review should be agreed upon to confirm everyone understands their role.  Resident input is critical, they have a unique perspective to share.  However, it needs to be said that while their input is valued, it will be equal with other team members’ input.

The design team must find a way to balance feedback from all the players at the table – residents, owner, developer, management team, staff, other professionals (architect/engineers).  However, the owner holds some responsibility to set boundaries for residents that make it clear input is desired, but final decisions will not land on them alone.  There are many pieces to the puzzle!

For the design team to make sure all viewpoints are considered, they need the ability to take all feedback and creatively balance the needs of operations, maintenance, safety, cost, and aesthetics that appeal to current residents, future residents, and visiting family members. Aesthetic decisions based on opinions of those with no design experience does not produce a functional and beautiful design.  Letting the designers design is going to give you the best results in the end!

Once the committee has been built, design team introduced, and rules established, you are ready for a presentation.  Here are a few practical tips that will help presentations be successful:

Tip #1 – Connection

If the design team has the opportunity to get to know the members of a committee it will lead to more empathy on both sides and improve the flow of ideas back and forth.  If the group is isolated or too large, there will be hurdles to finding connection between all the members of the group and slow down the open communication. Consider including time for some one-on-one conversations to build rapport.

Tip #2 – Meeting Conditions

The environment for meetings really matters, especially for residents.  Interior designers consider finish selections based on aging eyes and acoustics.  Those same elements matter for the environment in which you present the design.  If the room is too dark, if the screen is too small, or the room is too large you won’t have the right conditions for success.  The meeting will get derailed by the audience not being able to see or hear everything being presented to them.

Bad Meeting Space Example

 

Good Meeting Space Example

Tip #3 – Focus on Agenda

During an interior design presentation, inevitably questions will come up that are “off topic” – like floor plan questions for the architect, lighting questions for the engineer, operations questions for the owner.  If you can have a “parking lot” for those off-topic questions to be written down, it will ensure follow up really happens but keeps the meeting focused on the agenda and the decisions that need to be made during the meeting.  The “parking lot” can become an agenda for the next meeting with the right team members in the room.

Parking Lot Example

Everyone has the goal of a beautiful, functional design that is marketable and on budget. Following a few steps to establish the right resident committee, relationships, and rules will lead to a renovation design review process that leaves all members feeling heard. The right interior design team can be a big part of achieving that goal!

Art as Narrative

August 4, 2022

by Nicole Dutton, Senior Art Consultant & Project Manager

A long time ago, in a land far away, lived an artist who wanted to tell a story. So, they picked up their paintbrush and began. And that, my friends, is how narrative art was born.

Artwork that depicts a story in which the viewer finds themselves immersed is called “narrative art”. Often this type of artwork drops us into a world in which the “story isn’t bound by the four sides of the canvas. It expands and moves beyond, leaving the viewer wanting to know more.” (Milan Institute). Drama or comedy, fictional or non-, it’s the middle of a plot that we’re challenged to complete. The artwork can leave us feeling reflective, meditative, energized, or passionate, evoking a variety of emotional responses.  We can relate to the characters depicted and entrench ourselves in an entirely different environment.

As art consultants, we recognize spaces where art is simply a design element and the right solution. With that type of application, it could be a gestural splash of brightly saturated paint on canvas that draws out the colors in furniture fabric or a textured sculptural element that helps ground the soaring ceilings of a large space. Although narrative art can harmonize a space through those same formal elements, it provides something more. It slows us down. We’re physically and intimately pulled toward the artwork as we connect to the artist and their story.  The artist has provided the prompt, and now it’s our job to run with it, only dependent on our imagination.

Here are a couple of our favorite narrative artwork pieces from South Carolina artist Jon Smith. How might this artist transport you into his work?

Phillips Collection, Renoir’s Boating Party

Jon Smith – Phillips Collection, Renoir’s Boating Party


Aix-en-Provence, Farmers Market

Jon Smith – Aix-en-Provence, Farmers Market

Spellman Brady & Company Announces New Blog

August 2, 2022
We’ve been a big player in the interior planning arena for nearly 30 years – and for good reason. Backed by the design sense – and uncanny wit – of 31 employees and counting, we are small, but mighty. We believe in collaboration and that many voices are better than one. Our people are truly our best assets. So, with that, we’ve decided to share these brilliant voices with YOU through a blog. Posting twice a month, you’ll hear from the entire SBC team on topics ranging from design trends to the psychology of art and “my favorite room”, where one of our designers explores her personal style at home.

 

On Thursday, you’ll learn about narrative art from our very own Senior Art Consultant, Nicole Dutton.

 

Thanks for following along!
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