The Best Flooring Solutions to Support Senior Life

By Earle Jenkins

Senior living communities have changed with the decades, moving from drab and stagnant to vibrant and active, but the need to accommodate physical health, budget, peace of mind and ease of movement has remained the same. A facility’s floors can significantly impact all those considerations, increasing or alleviating the burdens placed on both the facility and its staff. Indeed, floors are the most frequently used feature in any senior environment and can affect everything from residents’ navigational abilities and mental clarity to the facility’s appearance and safety. To properly serve the community and fulfill its function, a facility must have floors that reflect its residents’ needs and style preferences, while also protecting their overall health.

Lifestyle Meets Function
A facility’s function and community are essential considerations when identifying the right floors for any space. Typically, senior facilities are divided into three types: senior living, assisted living and memory care, which is a specialized type of long-term care designed for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Each facility type requires different levels of health and wellness care, all of which influence the best floors to serve its community.

Senior living facilities have agile and active residents who seek social interactions and community connections. These facilities require floors that hold up well against the wear and tear of larger group gatherings and events. For this type of environment, patterned floors perform well as they can mask damage. Hard surfaces, such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), also accommodate these communities as they create comfortable yet durable spaces.

Assisted living facilities house residents who require more hands-on care. Spills are common, which means pools of liquid can create costly subfloor damage and rot. Soft surfaces should feature built-in moisture resistance, such as moisture barriers or a moisture barrier backing. For hard surfaces, ensure a smooth seam with a high-quality plank locking system that protects against moisture damage.

Residents of memory care facilities require heightened medical care and support. In these environments, floors should be devoid of geometric patterns since overwhelming or harsh floor patterns can frighten those with dementia. Floors with organic and free-flowing patterns make the best choices.

Amenities and Price Tiers
Senior living arrangements further divide into price tiers, additionally influencing what flooring solution works best for a facility.

Higher-cost facilities feature premium amenities to reflect a luxury lifestyle. Hard surfaces enhance the style and design preferences of these facilities.

Medium-cost facilities have mid-range amenities with lasting appeal and durability. These facilities should incorporate hard surfaces like LVT, which may require a larger initial investment in exchange for extended longevity and enhanced durability.

Amenities in the lowest cost facilities are barebones. This often saves residents money while providing comfort. These facilities benefit from a broadloom product that can accommodate a lower price point but still offers attractive colours and designs.

Cleanliness and Safety
Stains, slips and falls are common in senior environments, especially in assisted living and memory care facilities.

Stains can create the perception that a facility is unsanitary, even after thoroughly cleaning the mess. Products with built-in stain resistance and cleanability provide an optimal solution as they only require hot water to remove everyday stains. Floors with organic patterns can also help mask spills and stains, lending further assistance to burdened and overworked staff and maintenance teams while also increasing a facility’s overall appearance.

Slip and fall accidents are another consideration for senior facilities. Carpet is the best choice for slip resistance and to cushion falls. But while a carpeted texture enhances slip resistance, an overly thick carpet can make walking a challenge for seniors. The best carpet options are sufficiently thick to provide cushion and traction, yet thin enough to encourage walkability.

It is important to remember transitions between flooring pose as tripping hazards. Senior facilities should minimize the presence of transitions, such as those between carpet and LVT. The best floors will encourage a natural flow to connect rooms, with carpet tile and LVT matching in length and width. This approach can drastically minimize or entirely phase-out the use of transitions within a facility.

Interior Appeal
The best flooring options should optimize colour and pattern choices to inspire positive energy throughout the environment, and add light and excitement without triggering agitation or creating an impression of immaturity. Ideal colour choices for senior facilities fall within warm tones or cool neutrals.

When selecting a colour scheme, designers must keep in mind that colours can appear increasingly yellow as people age. In response, designers should view all colours through a yellow tint to ensure their choices truly complement the space. Additionally, colour can impact navigation and depth perception. Since depth perception can decline with age, designers should carefully consider how floor colour can improve navigation and prevent accidents. Ideally, floor colours should contrast wall colours so anyone with weak depth perception can easily recognize where floors stop and walls begin.

Pattern can create a warm, residential feel. With hard surfaces, patterns of matte wood grains and stone appearances are optimal. Organic patterns also help hide spills better than harsh geometric patterns and may prove to be the better long-term investment. Floor patterns can also help seniors focus on their movements, allowing them to find guidance within the patterned visual aids.

Earle Jenkins is senior-vice president of sales at Mohawk Group, the world’s leading producer and distributor of quality commercial flooring with a heritage of craftsmanship that spans more than 130 years. Mohawk Group addresses the unique challenges and opportunities in contract interiors with a comprehensive carpet and hard surface portfolio of all types and price points.

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