Considerations for Seniors Living Facilities

September 14, 2016

By: Dan Lee, AScT, LEED AP and Jim Ingram

Today, the proportion of seniors (those aged 65 and over) living in Canada is rising rapidly—in 2013, roughly 3 in every 20 Canadians was over the age of 65. By 2036, this number is expected to rise to nearly 1 in every 4 as the baby boomer generation enters its senior years.

In 2014, there were 1,519 long-term care facilities in Canada. Year after year, this number continues to rise to meet the needs of the rising senior population.

In the past, moving into a seniors’ community was a dispiriting step that left much to be desired. The choice to move away from the comforts of home to an often cold and impersonal environment was not one that many seniors willingly made. But over time, these facilities have become more homelike than institutional, providing aging Canadians with comfortable residences that encourage healthy living.

These facilities often require special consideration in the building process, with adaptations made to allow for accessible living spaces, lifting devices for those with reduced mobility, and high-quality ventilation systems. For assisted-living facilities, security is also an important feature, particularly in areas designed for memory care.

As the number of seniors in Canada has risen, design, construction, and engineering firms have taken into account the many factors that impact the lives of seniors residing in long-term care facilities, including:

  • Ventilation

Indoor climates can have a significant impact on residents’ health. Proper ventilation systems must be included in order to protect residents who may not have the same immunity as when they were young or have respiratory issues.

  • Temperature controls

To meet the varying needs of residents, many facilities now feature individual temperature controls in each resident’s room. Residents’ quality of life is of the utmost importance, so heating systems must allow for comfortable living while also being energy efficient. Often, radiant floor heating is used to create comfortable spaces while meeting energy efficiency requirements.

  • Energy conservation

Often in both seniors’ living and residential care facilities, room temperature is set at 3-4 degrees higher than a typical residence. In order to create warmer spaces while still taking into account requirements for LEED certification, special consideration must be put into the building design.

  • Resident health, safety, and security

Many new care facilities feature gantry lifts to carry residents from their beds to the bathroom. These lifts require special consideration for mechanical system design and installation as the rails used to carry patients mean that walls are not designed at full height. For memory care wings, security and wayfinding systems are of utmost importance in building design.

Ultimately, the goal of engineering in any residential facility, but particularly those designed for seniors, is to create comfortable accommodation that enables a high quality of life. Collaboration between engineering, construction, design, and home developers or health authorities allows seniors to enjoy a high quality of life, living a comfortable, healthy lifestyle as they age.

Williams Engineering is committed to creating high-quality environments for aging populations. By continually adopting new technologies and taking innovative measures to build community and encourage healthy living, we are working to support the well-being of Canadians at any age.