How to increase quality of life through functional design

Adaptability and longevity are common buzzwords, when it comes to the care industry and designing residential care facilities for the elderly where the objective is to increase the residents’ quality of life.

How can these big words be transformed to tangible solutions? In this article, we have collected real-life experiences to serve as inspiration for how functionality and aesthetics can add to increased quality of life in practice.

Flexibility on wall tracks

The wash basin can be raised and lowered. The toilet is sideways adjustable and equipped with support arms, which can be removed as required. The mirror can be adjusted to suit both sitting and standing residents and under the wash basin there is enough room for wheelchair users to get close to the tap. These are some of the advantages implemented in the bathrooms at Marienlund Residential Care Home in Silkeborg, Denmark.

“We really wanted to implement more flexible assistive aids that were adjustable both horizontally and vertically and therefore adaptable for every different residents’ needs, “says Lene Thomsen, a Care Assistant from Marienlund Residential Care Home.

At Marienlund Residential Care Home, they have lifted all assistive aids in the bathroom from the floor and mounted them on wall tracks that run all the way around the walls. These wall tracks enable the care staff to quickly add, remove or rearrange the assistive aids depending on the individual resident’s needs. This gives the residents more quality of life, explains Lene Thomsen.

“Those who can take care of themselves, obviously want to do so themselves. Just like the rest of us. We feel better taking care of things ourselves. This does not change, just because you get older.” Lene Thomsen highlights the adjustable shower seat as the assistive aid that provides the most flexibility and functionality in practice.

“The shower seat is mounted on wall tracks and therefore it does not take up any of the floor space. It is easier to move around the residents and we can better help them to the necessary extent. Generally, the wall tracks make the working days easier,” she explains.

Before Marienlund was built, Silkeborg Municipality conducted a user survey, which showed that especially a flexible toilet was a significant factor for the staff. Therefore, the toilet was mounted on a false wall in front of the bearing wall. The wall with the toilet can therefore easily be pushed and fixed in place closer or further away from the wash basin and the remaining assistive aids dependent on the residents’ and the staff’s needs.

“Generally speaking, we are very happy that the bathrooms can be adapted to the individual resident. We do not move the assistive aids around on a daily basis, but we make a virtue of arranging the bathrooms according to the individual users’ needs,” explains Lene Thomsen and elaborates:

“That the bathrooms can be transformed from one resident to the next gives us [the staff] better working conditions and our residents are thriving because they are independent and can perform more everyday activities themselves”.

Overall, these practical experiences from Marienlund Residential Care Home indicate that functional design of the bathroom interior is the key to increasing the residents’ well-being and not least optimize the care staff’s working conditions.

 

In Silkeborg Municipality, functional design has been key, when designing Marienlund Residential Care Home, where there was a particular focus on creating a flexible toilet.