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Assisted Living Design and Activities Programming that Encourage Family Involvement

Author: Christina A. Gonano
Date: August 2006
Program: Master of Science in Interior Architecture, Chatham University

The purpose of this study was to determine where family visits take place and which design features and activities encourage family involvement in assisted living facilities. Family involvement is a philosophical goal of assisted living and is linked with physical and psychological well-being. Yet, few researchers have examined design and activities in the context of family visits.

Residents and family members from three different assisted living facilities participated in the study. The participants filled out questionnaires that asked them how often they used different areas in the facility for family visits. The questionnaire also asked participants to explain why they used their highest rated areas and to identify activities they participated in in those areas. In addition, they were asked to explain why they did not use certain areas as often and to list any areas or activities that they would like to see in these facilities. Analyses revealed similarities and differences between groups with respect to space usage. Both older adults and family members indicated the apartment was the most frequently used space for family visits. In contrast, residents ranked the dining room and den high while family members ranked outdoor areas and the living room high. The laundry room, library, and activity room were used much less frequently for visits by both groups. The study revealed that privacy is an important reason why certain spaces are used or not used. Outdoor areas are desirable but sufficient protection from the elements is needed on a small scale. In addition, both groups of participants desired physical therapy or exercise rooms and more opportunities for outdoor activities and exercise. Family members also noted the need for computer rooms, a deli or café, and a convenience store. Based on the findings, several recommendations are provided for both design and activities programming.