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In the wake of Covid-19, should we be designing spaces to keep people apart or should we be designing spaces that allow people to come safely together?

This is a particularly good question for senior living, as social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of things like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and even death.

A new guide from MASS Design Group offers some great ideas for senior housing developers and owners on adapting existing buildings to balance infection control with social interaction.

8 Principles for Senior Housing

You may know MASS Design and its founder Michael Murphy for their award-winning work with health organizations in third world countries to respond to contagious diseases like Ebola and cholera.

The firm has also designed a fair amount of affordable housing projects and is focused on “addressing the chronic injustices of structural health inequities in the U.S. and around the world.”

In this guide, they offer 8 principles for senior housing:

  1. Make spaces breathe better
  2. Sequence flows through a space
  3. Reduce pressure on high traffic places
  4. Encourage people to get outdoors
  5. Group residents into “villages”
  6. Increase cleaning protocols for high-touch surfaces
  7. Expand the threshold of the unit
  8. Embed technology

Other Design Strategies

They also offer design strategies for entry into and circulation in public areas (front door), semi-public areas (lobbies, courtyards, corridors), and private areas (apartments).

None of this is necessarily new or innovative, but it is the latest thinking about how to design spaces that allow people to safely come together in senior living environments.

Plus, it’s a well thought-out document with lots of annotated ideas that can be applied to many different types of projects.

And I like their suggestions for future developments in senior housing, including providing services for residents without them having to leave the building, equal access to outdoor spaces, generous entryways, and a shift in how affordable housing is funded and financed.

Want More?

Download the guide, Designing Senior Housing for Safe Interaction.

Listen to Michael Murphy speak about how we can design spaces to heal.

More articles about the impact of Covid-19 on healthcare facility design.

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Image:  MASS Design Group

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Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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