Social Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation

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In the United States, the creation of state of the art senior living communities has increased and evolved to provide for the needs of our elders. According to a research conducted by Henry Lodge (former professor at Columbia University Medical Center), 70% of how we age is determined by four lifestyle choices: exercise, connection, nutrition, and goals.

Not long ago, the Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) architectural and interior design trends were focused on the accessibility of the senior community to arts and culture, proximity to grocery and retail stores, proximity to multiple transportation options, and smart designs for dense suburban and urban locations. The space plan of these facilities had one goal in mind, inclusion. Supporting residents to maintain a meaningful social connection with their loved ones and the community was imperative to fulfill one of the four lifestyle choices defined by Henry Lodge.

But what happens now? This past couple of months, connection and the way we interact with our elders, especially those in senior living communities, has been altered from what we know. The pandemic has forced us to think outside the box to continue with our activities and to find ways to interact. Practicing social and physical distancing has become a necessity during this time. However, we need to remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation.

Residents of retirement communities make an independent choice to join a village for a myriad of reasons. Most commonly, to maximize their lifestyle opportunities. This pandemic has greatly impacted those opportunities and created a new “normal” from which we are still learning. As Interior Designers, we have a responsibility that we don’t take lightly which is maintaining the safety and wellbeing of the users of a space. Besides promoting remote interactions, incorporating physical distance measures during the space planning process, and selecting more antimicrobial treated materials will be just a few ways to ensure ALF occupants have a safe environment to reside.

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