Why having a Multiple Personality helps in designing the Best Senior Living Homes

As designers we would like to think otherwise but really when it comes down to it, Senior Living is a Hotel with Support Services not unlike a Country Club with Sleeping Rooms.

I have spent much of my career trying to tell folks otherwise, that it is incredibly more complex than a hotel and to a certain extent that still holds true regarding the level of materials specified and differing care levels that need to be addressed. It’s as if my multiple design personalities are fighting each other more and more as time goes on. The more I work in this field the more battles for which personality is most important and wants to take over control of the design process. But have no fear; I have developed a way to keep each in check. While Sybil had 13, I only have 7!

My CFO Personality
My Hospitality Personality
My Housekeeping Personality
My Operational Personality
My Marketing Personality
My Maintenance Personality
My Caregiver Personality

The key is starting at the beginning……….with what fundamentally needs to be figured out in order to have the design function and flow and then add the extras in.

1.   My CFO Personality - Rooms must be appropriately designed and the mix figured out right from the start. Without this the numbers relating to the project cost may not work so you can’t go any further. This will be constrained by land size and shape and other building considerations. Until this is determine nothing else matters so we always start with the CFO.

2.   My Hospitality Personality – Dining types and delivery systems have an enormous impact on the design of a building. Where the main kitchen is located and its proximity to the main dining room and receiving is crucial. If Country Kitchens are utilized or in room dining, how the food is transported and at what stage will determine the need for heated carts, serveries, ventilation etc. Food Delivery happens 3 times a day for all residents and has the largest impact to the building design and therefore wins the number 2 spot in the battle with my other personalities for “face time”

3.   My Housekeeping Personality – I know what you’re thinking, my caregiver personality should really be stronger and take the number 3 spot. But Housekeeping has made an excellent case. How & where laundry, linens, trash and cleaning take place are more critical to design than care giving. These can require massive space and HVAC requirements. The can be decentralized or centralized. They can be outsourced and offsite (in the case of Laundry). Understanding the How & Where are critical to the planning of the space more than others due to the variables involved.

4.   My Operational Personality – Considering the staffing and flow of who is working where and when determines the next bit of design considerations. If we design a great space but it requires too much staff then it’s not so great. If we design for the day shift and forget that the late night shift is reduced in numbers, the design may no longer work. We need to understand what the implications of our designs are on staffing, function and flow for high and low periods and design flexibility into the space to accommodate all needs.

5.   My Marketing Personality – Some often call this the “WOW” factor. What grabs you the moment you walk in the door and makes you feel impressed, less guilty or good. Lance Secreton calls it “soul space”. Soul Space is space that makes you feel good on the inside, it touches you positively, you feel comfortable like that favorite chair of yours. You can’t normally put your finger on what “soul space” is but when you’re in it you know. It just feels right.

6.   My Maintenance Personality – Next to last we must consider the maintenance side of the design. Typically this does not change that much in space requirements and thus falls so far down on the list. This would be the Mechanical Room, Storage Space etc.

7.   My Care Giver Personality – How could it be that this personality is the least important to the design process? It’s simple, care happens with the Resident/ Patient. It does not require much more space than is already available within the residents living environment. The business of care on the other hand is considered in my operational personality. True resident focused care should be with the resident engaging them, assisting them, loving them. These activities do not require a special room or place they happen anywhere and everywhere.

Great Designs consider all 7 personalities but pay attention to the ones that matter the most in the right sequence. When the sequence gets out of whack or too much emphasis is placed on one “personality” the design suffers, residents suffer and returns suffer.