Care for the Elderly: Architectural Requirements

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Caring for the elderly presents considerable challenges, for instance, the centers are insufficient and unable to cater for the increasing number of seniors in the society today. In particular, there is significant lack of suitable institutions to deal with the social, physical and psychological needs of the elderly. The older people require facilities where they can feel safe and attain happiness. However, the seniors in the community often have a negative impression about the facilities as result of institutionalization. Further, they are unable to perform even regular and basic tasks or socialize with the rest of the community. As such, the primary aims of the study is to establish some of the fundamental architectural principles based on the issues encountered by the elderly which prevent provision of proper health care. In particular, the objective of the investigation is to comprehend the major concepts linked to aging and how architectural model can be used to foster a positive sense of aging. Finally, the objective of study is to assess the current body of literature and present a formula that describes the principles, criteria and guidelines for architectural to promote effective care for aging. 

Contextualization of the Care for the Elderly

 There are varied meaning attached to the term “care.” When considering care of the elderly, it focuses on protecting their rights and attending to their social and physical needs. The choice to take care of the older persons is often dictated by the standards practiced in the society as well as religion and cultural values. Some people see the need to assist the elderly while others have no or little regard for them.

Housing Needs

Current literature shows a considerable debate over the housing needs of the elderly.  Numerous researchers have focused on different issues, for example, accessibility, thermal comfort, and lighting. In particular, the most disadvantaged are the poor seniors because they do not have a choice of the place they live and have little not decision to make regarding the kind of interior finished they feel would be suitable for them or accommodation they prefer.  Currently, care for elderly is either formal or informal. The informal care is conducted by the seniors’ friends, family, or community. On the other hand, the formal care is one that is provided by institutions and is either paid for or offered by volunteers. The older individuals prefer to live with their neighbors, friends, or family in the environment that provide familiar encounters. At the same time, if necessary, they opt to receive informal care without change of their place of residence, other issues that make these individuals reluctant to leave include financial and sentimental value. Further, other elderly persons do not want to burden their families and may opt for a residence that provides formal care. As such, according to Lee (2015), housing development should consider the elderly and reflect a mixture of ages present in a community. The outward appearance of the building needs to be designed in a way that does not suggest any form of segregation of the elderly (Lee, 2015, p. 194). These persons should be located in places that encompass a mixture of activities where their families, friends, and community can visit them.

On the other hand, Pastalan (2016) argues that housing development should not compel the elderly to live in single building, particularly, when their age factor is taken into account.  The buildings that meant for the elderly should not be isolated from the rest of the community. The houses should be situated in places that are elderly friendly. Tremoulet, Dann, and Adkins (2016) are of the opinion that residential institutions that offer informal care should not be regarded as unnecessary or obsolete. The distance between the friend and families and elderly residents should not be large to oversee commitment to in-home care to elderly.  As such, the scholars demonstrate that lack of knowledge about caring for the elderly together with an inappropriate environment where they live are the major contributors of the inattention they older receive from families, community, and friends (Tremoulet, Dann, and Adkins, 2016, p. 692).

Aspects of Active Aging

Aleksei Leontiev, Russian Psychologist, developed the activity theory created based on socio-cultural tradition. The basic of the theory is the term ‘activity” which is purposeful transformation and establishment of interaction between world objects and actors (subjects).  The latter is concerned with human beings, teams, and animals. In consideration of care for the older, the theory was made to respond to disengagement theory that proposes that isolation or withdrawal of the elderly from the society as they age should be considered normal phenomenon (Pastalan, 2016, p. 373). According to the activity theory, for people to age gracefully, they must maintain their interaction and social roles. They should not be included in the societal spheres. In particular, Aleksei Leontiev contends that meaningful activity impact life satisfaction positively. The connotation is not limited to provision of recreation and sport but also social activities and being involved in the communal roles. 

Identification of Architectural Requirements of Environment that Promote Care of the Elderly

Fostering Active Aging and Development of Empowerment Oriented Care

 Building environment can be used as a catalyst to promote active aging and develop empowerment-oriented care. However, there are specific components that should be considered to effectuate the desired course of action. Although the elderly are no often different from the rest of the people, their needs are usually varied as result of distinct factors mentioned in the previous chapters (Pastalan, 2016, p. 373). The following elements must be taken into account in built and natural environments to foster active aging establish empowerment-oriented care for the elderly.


The location where the elderly life should be less burdensome for them. In other words, there should be a convenient link between the places where the persons live and where they have to travel. The neighborhood or environment should be of good density to that of the elderly residents. The approach is one of the means of preventing visual isolation (Tremoulet, Dann, and Adkins, 2016, p. 692). When the typology of the location where the elderly are living is perceived to be highly populated, and the surround is not of the same degree, it would be imperative to relocate the individuals to proximity to facilities such as schools that have increased level of occupancy.

Wayfinding and Legibility

The deterioration of physical, mental and sensory perception of the old people is one of the primary challenges. As such, wayfinding needs to be considerably pronounced. In other words, the individuals should not find it stressful to find their way. The environment should allow them to maneuver through the building with asking for assistance or direction. Additionally, the light and colors used in the building materials play a fundamental role in creating a legible environment that elders can circulate through easily.  

Contact with Nature

The power or natural elements can be harnessed to achieve distinct but positive effects.  Human beings have an important connection with water, wind, fire and earth and desire to incorporate these elements into their lives.  Therefore, the view of the natural features and environment should be included in the building whenever possible. Current literature demonstrates that rivers, streams, lake, cold or hot springs are associated with healing with the main element being water. The aesthetic beauty of water enhances the appearance of the surrounding. Trees and air are yet other critical factors that should be incorporated in the building environment.  For instance, trees are often used to attain a sense of containment as they change based on the season. According to Tamjidi, Hajian, and Ghafourian (2016), green environment is more amenable as compared to one that is not.  At the same time, trees act as a buffer to noise and offer shade from harsh sub while serving as home for the wild animals and birds which adds to the vibrancy of the residence.

Interior considerations

The interior of the building is an important consideration as enhance the experience of living. As build offer transformative beauty as one move from one space to the other, it creates a sense of accomplishment and meaning in a person thereby lifting the individual’s spirit. Numerous elements should be considered which are important in creating meaningful building: change in floor texture, turn for changed view, doorways, light, gates, paths, steps, archways, space and passages (Tamjidi, Hajian, and Ghafourian, 2016, p. 157). Therefore, the environment should relate to these elements, particularly, when creating places where elders are to reside.

Windows are an important component of a building as they allow air circulation and lighting as well as visual transition to the outdoor environment. Sometimes the elderly may not have the energy to leave their rooms. In such instances, windows serve as the only thing that prevents boredom and feeling of isolation by stimulating visual perception.

The interior of the building should also take into account active engagement with the environment by having person touches to prevent the elderly from becoming passive. As such, there should be some form of control to promote active engagement with the environment.


 Architecturally, the definition of the term “space” is not complete unless it encompasses natural light. Mechanical lighting is imperative during the day and night when the natural light is not sufficient in the indoor environment. Artificial light can be used to bring about different effects, for instance, enhancing independence of the occupants of a building. Since aging comes with poor visual ability, inadequate lighting can cause further issues (Tamjidi, Hajian, and Ghafourian, 2016, p. 157). When sufficient, light can improve color recognition, quality of space and wayfinding.

Psychological effects of Color

On the same note, color of the building affects psychology of people. Colors can be considered as either warm or cool. Warm colors may have a stimulating impact while cool ones result in sedative effect.  Balance should be made between calming and stimulating colors to prevent adverse effects, for instance, over stimulation.

The strength of Weak Ties: public space and their integration with private functions.

Weak ties are characterized by infrequent interaction between an individual and other people. Promoting weak ties can be important in strengthening and promoting active participation in the community (Tremoulet, Dann, and Adkins, 2016, p. 692). As an outcome, the approach prevents isolation and allows sharing of valuable information. The aspect takes into consideration the public space and their integration with private functions. The building environment should reinforce weak ties. For the case of elderly with reduced physical and sensory capacity, there should be convenient access to these public spaces naturally as frequent as possible to enable formal and informal activities to take place (Kerr, Rosenberg and Frank, 2012, p. 44).

Co-mingling space

Co-mingling space is fundamental because it provides an opportunity to assemble and interact informally. Consequently, co-mingling spaces can strengthen weak ties. Spaces such as courtyard are advantageous as they allow various activities to occur.

Establishing equilibrium between privacy and communal vigor

Although public interaction has much to offer, privacy is important. The boundaries of private and public spaces should be defined appropriately.  A significant percentage of older women in the United States often share beds with a stranger during dissemination of care. Such scenarios are critical concerns for women as well as men. Therefore, formal and informal institutions should consider such factors when offering care to the elderly.

Genius Loci or Spirit of Space

The genius loci are considered Roman mythology in which a spirit is believed to be bound people or individual places. Each person has a genius for protection. This is often the case in building environment where the sense of place based on inherent spirit is taken into account by architecture. Therefore, it is imperative for the architecture to ensure restoration of the meanings and build upon the spirit of place to harmonize the natural surrounding and build effectively. The architects should create buildings that have the power to develop genius loci.

Case Study

De Rokade, Groningen has been chosen as the study of choice because it presents a modern approach to care for the old in the society. De Rokade, Groningen is constructed in a way that allows it to address specific issues aforementioned previously. The design for the design of the building promotes care for the elderly as it incorporates elements of active aging and development of empowerment-oriented care such as contact with nature, legibility, and location. Additionally, the color is carefully selected to bring about psychological impact. Further, it presents co-mingling characteristics. The interaction of the building to the public space creates equilibrium between communal and private environments.


The elderly population becomes isolated from the communication leading to deterioration of their mental and physical health. At the same time, they continue to experience depravity of their independence, freedom, and privacy. The issue is worsened by the negative stigma associated with aging. The elderly are commonly perceived as a liability instead of an asset in the society. However, the discussion offers useful insight into how architecture can be used to foster care for the elderly. The most fundamental factors that should be considered include promoting active aging and development of empowerment-oriented care, location, legibility and wayfinding, contact with nature, interior design: lighting, window positioning, engagement with the environment, the psychological effect of color, strengthening weak ties, co-mingling and genius loci and sense of place.


Kerr, J., Rosenberg, D. and Frank, L., 2012. The role of the built environment in healthy aging: community design, physical activity, and health among older adults. Journal of Planning Literature, 27(1), pp.43-60.

Lee, Y.J., 2015. The Rural Housing Planning Reflecting the Needs of the Elderly People Engaged in Farming Activities. Korean Institute of Interior Design Journal, 24(5), pp.12-20.

Pastalan, L.A., 2016. Housing decisions for the elderly: To move or not to move. Routledge

Tamjidi, Z., Hajian, A. and Ghafourian, B., 2016. Healing garden: Study of the therapeutic effects of the natural environment in Pediatric Hospital. Journal of Current Research in Science, 4(3), p.152.

Tremoulet, A., Dann, R.J. and Adkins, A., 2016. Moving to location affordability? Housing Choice Vouchers and residential relocation in the Portland, Oregon, region. Housing Policy Debate, 26(4-5), pp.692-713.

August 01, 2023

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