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The Concept of Flow

How a seamless flow and optimized space can open up, enhance and reinvent Senior Living communities.

While walking through a skilled nursing building and taking scope notes for a recent project, I started to think about the concept of flow. The dictionary defines flow as “movement in or as if in a stream” or something “issued or proceeded from a source.” And it struck me that this idea of a natural flow is particularly relevant to Senior Living today.

The concept has been on my mind lately because I often see buildings that are 10, 20 or 30 years old. These buildings have evolved into whatever the communities needed them to be at different points in time. Typically the physical changes have occurred due to staff change, ownership change or even market needs. The change happens, and over time we go with the flow. Unfortunately, the flow of change often means these buildings may no longer be optimally laid out in order to meet the community’s needs and provide its services.

With every renovation project, it is my responsibility as a designer to ask my clients about the flow of their building and come up with logical solutions that meet their needs both operationally and aesthetically. We must look at each project as an opportunity to improve the natural, seamless movement throughout physical spaces in a community with the end goal of enhancing the care provided as well as the lifestyles that the residents value.

My advice to clients is to consider the characteristics and needs of the population their building serves. Do they need more space or less space? What services would they like to offer their residents that would require different space? What are their community’s storage needs? Do they need additional office and administrative areas in order to provide efficiency and privacy for personnel and also to free up the common spaces in the community? I like to have my clients imagine that their building is a completely blank slate and ask them to create their community’s wish list. I also like to ask clients what they would like guests to see first upon entering the building and consider what type of first impression they want to create.

Once these questions have been answered, a Senior Living professional can look to their interior designer for help developing an effective plan to optimize the building’s space and movement. I recommend having a designer create a diagram of the perfect building as if there were no limitations, and then look at the diagram options to decide what is realistic. If a project has a lower budget it can be implemented in phases, using a one- to three-year plan.

There are many buildings in Senior Living communities today in need of a flow makeover. When such buildings are opened up, enhanced and reinvented, the entire community will benefit from the order, balance and beauty of seamless flow and optimized space.


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