Since the beginning of our collaboration with Paulina Ballbè in 2017, CASA SOLO has worked to turn its attention to a growing section of the population: the elderly and people with dementia. While it is not necessary to reach a certain age to experience physical and mental diversity, the senior population represents a huge range of people with different demands than we are used to. If we design to better respond to their needs, we all benefit at the same time because the environments get their comfort and safety both improved without increasing the costs of construction and interior design in a significant way.
Proposal for a private clinic in Casablanca. Illustrative image with some important aspects related to the design friendly to the elderly, such as avoiding brightness and reflections on the surfaces, especially on the pavement; provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere, avoiding environments that may be hostile to the user; ensure views and accesses to green outdoor spaces; highly contrasting elements with respect to the background facilitating their detection and use; or the incorporation of reference milestones through art to promote memorization and orientation.
Today, and after a necessary study time, we can say that we have a tool that will serve us to introduce improvements in the architecture of our projects in relation to the elderly and dementia. We will move from theory to practice by taking as a reference the best existing health spaces in the world that are designed and organized with the Age-friendly concept. It is important that “adaptations” increasingly become “standards” included in the norm to make it compatible with a gentle coexistence between people with heterogeneous perceptions of the environment. Is There “Universal Design” as such? Maybe not, but we can get close, and CASA SOLO directs its efforts to achieve it. To this end, from the research department of CASA SOLO, a guide of architectural requirements that puts together everything discussed in the main international guidance documents (and other reference materials) has been developed. To these, we have incorporated our own experience and ideas, always chequered by direct users, and that we will continue to verify in the Age-friendly co-creation processes that we will implement shortly.
This document not only serves us to project, but also to review previous projects, learn from mistakes and reinforce the improvement of our objectives according to the “evidence-based design” procedure in which we believe. In this sense, we have already started to analyse with this tool two previously built projects. We want to disseminate the conclusions drawn and also share them in the academic field, through the collaboration of CASA SOLO with the BSM-Pompeu Fabra University within the framework of the Postgraduate degree in Active&Healthy Ageing Project Management. Architectural requirements revolve around topics such as universal accessibility, fall prevention, increasing support points, improving spatial and temporal orientation, the appropriation and customization of space, helping autonomy and independence, reducing stress, reinforcing memory, a balanced sensory stimulation, the use of natural composition materials, promoting social interaction and community engagement, etc. All this has the aim of minimizing the feelings of fear, frustration, insecurity and discomfort; and promotes joy, tranquillity, affectivity, protection and empowerment.
The aim is to achieve optimal spatial and environmental conditions for healing, even in situations of great vulnerability and/or fragility that occur most often to older people. From the team we want to emphasize the immense possibilities of architecture as a therapeutic resource beyond its functionality. The psychological and neurological effects of space on us should be further considered: everything we perceive through our senses inevitably influences and conditions our organism and behaviour. For this reason, we appeal to responsibility and advocate responding to the need to live in healthy and healing spaces in a totally holistic way, putting the user’s experience ahead of us. In short, from CASA SOLO we will continue to work to achieve excellence in the health field and for this we believe that we must also be “gerontologically sensitive”, studying and learning more every day about old age and its processes, promoting active aging so that life in addition to being long, is of quality. The Age-Friendly Hospital (AFH) concept we embedded more than three years ago and our new guide to good practice will lead us to achieve this.
Research department. CASA SOLO Arquitectos SLP.