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People and Spaces Working Together in Collaboration

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We all have those favorite spaces in our homes, communities, and at work. A space where a comforting feeling is created as a result of both the physical setting of the space and human factors. For example, what would your favorite social place be without your friends around you or populated by your favorite furniture or objects? It is important to realize that our experiences are shaped by the interaction of both the physical setting and human factors.

Right now, even as you are reading this, you are experiencing a place, and it is based on two primary factors. The first factor is the physical setting composed of the following three components:

  • Built Environment (bricks and mortar)
  • Sensory Properties (light, sound, temperature levels, aromas, and textures)
  • Spatial Properties (size, shape, and location of a space)

The second component is the human factor composed of the following three aspects:

  • Individual (personal experiences)
  • Groups (information and knowledge gained as a care assistant, nurse, doctor, executive, family member, visitor, etc.)
  • Organizations (larger organization policy and procedures)

The experience of a place is the combination of the physical setting with the human factors. But why is this concept important to understand, particularly within an older adult care setting?

Care providers strive to create a positive place experience for residents, family members, and staff.  Often, places are “out of balance” because of an outdated and inflexible building. As a result, staff often compensate for a lacking physical environment with an extraordinary effort in order to achieve a positive place experience for residents.

For example, if a care community is designed around a traditional approach with large centralized communal spaces, such as dining & activity spaces, staff will spend an inordinate amount of time physically moving residents to meals and events taking place in those rooms. Residents will receive the benefits of eating regularly and participating in activities, however as a result, the level of staff burden will be higher and the amount of time available for direct resident engagement will be reduced. If the physical environment is changed to reflect a contemporary household model of care, in which residents do not need to be taken to a centralized dining or activity space, the experience will be balanced between the physical setting and human factors. The household model of care, provides a physical setting with smaller, closer, decentralized dining and activity spaces. Staff will no longer be burdened with compensating for the diminished physical setting. In addition, staff will have additional time for direct engagement with residents which will also improve the overall resident experience. This is but a single example of the advantages to understanding the factors that create a positive or negative experience in a physical place.

A positive experience in your community is important. Thinking about your own community, what “unbalances” currently exist because of a lacking physical setting and who or what is compensating for them?

Senior Living Expert Contributor