Common spaces in assisted living for older persons. Aspects of usability from the residential and workplace perspectives.
Doctoral thesis, 2013
This thesis is about space. It assumes that space forms a necessary part of the structure of existence. The architectural space becomes an existential space in the encounter with the user. Common unit spaces in assisted living (AL) for older persons are the principal venue for social interaction and have no parallel in ordinary housing. The usability of these spaces is discussed here from the residential and workplace perspectives. These perspectives are explored in relation to the concept of AL and involve residents, staff and other stakeholders in buildings in use. Special housing for older people is currently in focus worldwide due to demographic develop-ments, entailing an increasing proportion of older people. Residents in AL are increasingly old and multi-diseased, which changes the conditions for residential care in its present form.
Four methods were used, involving 14 AL facilities (ALFs) in Sweden: observations, group interviews, individual interviews and self-completion questionnaires. An explorative strategy was adopted, combining qualitative and quantitative methods to enhance the validity of the results. The results were analysed using statistical analyses, Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) and triangulation.
The results show functional demarcations between apartments, dining rooms, sitting rooms and kitchens in a private-public continu¬um, with varying adherence to the respective residential and workplace perspectives. It also shows that these perspectives entail diverging objectives for use of the common spaces. The dining rooms were utilized most by the residents, but the kitchens were not used at all. The daily activities promote a focus on collective aspects above individual needs. The increasing use of assistive technology causes space shortages and suggests a mismatch between the actual users and the users conceptualised at the planning stage, which entails a focus on care aspects at the expense of the residential perspective. It shows that the common spaces are not perceived as a part of the home environment; rather an addition. The dementia and somatic units presented diverging objectives for use, but the physical environ-ments did not differ significantly. The functions of the common spaces were perceived differently among users, planners and architects. This suggests that these spaces have ambiguous meanings in a social context and may lead to ineffective use of the spaces. Along with a complicated body of regulations, this calls for a redefinition of AL. Design strategies are suggested that are more up-to-date with the users’ needs in relation to the usability of the common spaces. The residential and workplace perspectives have to be considered concomitantly when planning ALFs, otherwise inherent conflicts will become manifest as a result of the physical design, which affects usability.
buildings in use
residential and workplace perspectives