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There’s an estimated 77.3 million people in the Baby Boom generation in the U.S., which is 10 million more than a typical generation. And we’re all getting older.

For several years, there’s been talk about geriatric design for healthcare facilities.  Holy Cross in Silver Spring, MD, was reportedly the first hospital to design a geriatric ED.

I wonder how it’s working for them. And if boomers really want to go somewhere labeled “geriatric.”

I know I don’t.

But I know I’d probably benefit from some of the features that are designed for a geriatric ED.  We all would.

  • Treatment bays separated by walls, not curtains, for added privacy and quiet
  • Thicker mattresses and heated blanket for patients
  • Safety features like handrails, softer lighting and non-slip floors
  • Special speakers that make it easier to listen to music or watch TV
  • Telephones and remote controls with larger buttons
  • Space set aside for private family consultations
  • A centrally located nursing station so staff can keep a close eye on every patient

So why call it geriatric?  Why not just design it for people of all ages and abilities and call it an ED?

I’ve often thought the same thing about pediatric healthcare design.  Why wouldn’t the positive distractions and other design features found in many children’s hospitals be just appropriate for adults as they are for kids?

Oh, I get that part of all this is marketing and that design can contribute to attracting patients to specialty healthcare facilities. But please, don’t call it geriatric.

When you think about it, we’re designing for aging for people’s whole life.  Because, as I heard Dr. Bill Thomas say at the Environments for Aging conference a few years ago, aging starts right after we’re born. We go from childhood to adulthood to elderhood.

But make no mistake about it — the aging of the Baby Boomers is going to present some design opportunities that we have only begun to consider.  Some of my 60-something friends were talking the other day about which restaurants they don’t like to go to because it’s too noisy and they have to shout to hear each other.

Geriatric restaurants, anyone?

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Rod Vickroy

7 years ago

I guess we could call it Universal Design. When all of the users are considered the solution is better for everyone! Too bad it is not practised more, it bucks the trend for specialization that has taken hold in the healthcare market. Segment, segment, segment, a place for everyone, but not everyone in the same place.

Sara Marberry

7 years ago

You’re right, Rod. It is Universal Design. Thanks for your comments!

Troy Tucker

7 years ago

I agree, Rod. It makes sense to design more universally but the market is full of and continuing to trend towards specialization.

We could always find a word that boomers feel more comfortable with…wouldn’t be the first time this generation bucked the system. But that would be a departure from the medical community whose first publication dealing with care for the “old or aging” (the definition of geriatric) was in the 11th century. They may not be quick to change…

Sara Marberry

7 years ago

Well, no one said change was fast in healthcare! Thanks for your comment, Troy.

Margaret Fleming

7 years ago

Thank you, and thank you. My daughter also doesn’t like noisy restaurants. And yes, we all deserve consideration, peace, and privacy. Many, many illnesses stereotyped as diseases of aging have been proved to strike anyone, any age.

Perhaps I speak for more people over 29 when I say:
Dogs, Wildlife, Seniors: Get us OUT of this box!

Kunal Vaidya

7 years ago

Thanks Sara, for the great topic to discuss!

As a result of my firm – TDA Healthcare based in Mumbai, India constantly working on a new project based upon “e – treatment and consultation services from our Medical processing outlets”.

Considering results of un-development treatment of old age in India always promote and motivate me to work for Geriatric care. This gives a ignite to start the work for a better healthcare solutions in the form of faster reaching to the patients through “e-medication” and providing design consultancy to the corporate hospitals and individual players of the nation. including the points noted above for the habitable infrastructure of old age patients, we are working on modular geriatric care model home concept where the patient will not loose his home an family and will get all the related health facilities at his home.

Hope this work will add some value to the better future of geriatrics care.

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

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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