Landscaping Considerations for Senior Centers

March 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

senior living gardenOver the course of the last two years, we’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to install landscapes at a number of senior assisted living facilities (ALF), including The Lodge at Marlton, Brightview South River, Johnson Towers, Rainier Manor, Vida Senior Residences, Victory Oaks, and Elkton Senior Apartments. As a result of our work on these projects, we’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge relating to the creation of landscapes for ALFs.

Research has shown that access to nature and the development of inviting outdoor spaces has many benefits for the health of seniors, including reduced resident stress, improved mood and satisfaction, increased physical activity, better hormone balance and sleeping patterns , and better health outcomes

There is no denying that the physical environment plays an important role in promoting physical activity. The need for safety, as well as the need for exercise and social connection, are all critical to the creation of a healthy and active living environment. When it comes to safety, falling is one of the biggest risks faced by seniors and is the most frequent cause of injury-related morbidity and mortality amongst seniors in ALFs. The danger of falls notwithstanding, exercise and social connection are both critical for maintaining physical and emotional health. Careful consideration of the design of indoor and outdoor living spaces can both reduce risks and enable elderly people to live active, healthy lives.

ADA requirements are now standard at all ALFs and therefore sidewalks, ramps, etc. must meet code. Nonetheless, there are a number of additional factors to take into account when designing and installing landscapes for ALFs:

  • Shade, either from trees or shade structures, is an important element due to its ability to protect residents from overexposure to sunlight and heat.
  • Seating is also important as it provides areas to rest, affords seniors a sense of control, and encourages outdoor social interaction.
  • Careful consideration should be given to plant selection – specifically the use of non-poisonous, olfactory enhancing varieties, as well as the use of color which can easily be seen by residents with poor vision and/or cataracts. In addition, plants that are prickly to the touch should generally be avoided.
  • Accessibility is always a concern in ALF environments, and therefore many ALF gardens feature raised planting beds that are easily accessible to wheelchair-bound patients.

One of our favorite ALF landscaping projects is the Alzheimers Garden at Brightview South River. Designed by Floura Teeter for a project managed by Harkins Builders, the garden features a mix of non-poisonous natives, as well as herbs and edibles incorporated.  It is located in a secure, enclosed space that is accessible only by key card in and out, and has raised planters designed to be accessible by wheelchair.

To learn more about creating gardens for senior or assisted living facilities, contact us.