Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chronicle 3: Designing for Seniors and the Visually Impaired

In March 2012, I attended the 45th Annual Health Facilities Planning Seminar in Acme, Michigan. There were many good presentations at this seminar, however, the presentation that stuck out the most for me was the "Healthcare Facility Design for Seniors and the Visually Impaired" by Dr. Lylas G. Mogk, MD and A. Riddering, OTR/L, CLVT, COMS. We learned how different diseases and conditions affect vision.

Senior citizens are living longer and require not only medical care, but better accommodating conditions for the spaces they visit and use. They are also widely affected by various conditions that impair vision. The speakers presented scenarios and suggestions for designing spaces better for the visually impaired. There are several places to start: hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, and clinics. Senior citizens frequently visit these places for their care and medication and have trouble with several areas that we take for granted. Design challenges include:
  • Glare from sunlight.
  • Floor level changes.
  • Low contrasting colors that make surfaces appear to be the same.
  • Lever door handles and faucets.
  • Poor lighting.
There are many other areas, ideas and strategies for improving common spaces that we all take for granted. The presentation really heightened my awareness on this matter. Centric Design Studio is pursuing healthcare facilities as an area of expertise (recently as a member of the Harley Ellis Devereaux design team for the DMC Cardiovascular Hospital in Detroit, MI) and we plan to take the knowledge learned from this seminar and implement good design strategies for our growing population of elderly citizens.

Damon Thomas
CDS Design Director, LEED AP, NOMA, AIGA

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