Normative and relative aspects of the usability of common spaces in assisted living for older people
Paper in proceedings, 2015
Relation to the complexity and usability of common spaces in assisted living facilities (ALFs).
Background: ALFs for older people in Sweden contain both the residential and workplace perspectives. The common spaces retain physical and organizational features that are related to traditional institutional care environments. The use of common spaces in ALFs focuses heavily on communal activities, entailing a complex relation to the concept of home in a social context and of the home as a place.
Approach: A mixed QUAL/QUAN approach was applied containing method and data trian-gulation. Participant observations, semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and statistical analyses were used. The project encompasses 14 ALFs in Sweden and includes residents, staff, relatives, planners and architects.
Results: When the relative context of the building in use diverges from the normative context of planning and conceptualization, it affects the usability. Residential and workplace per-spectives entail different objectives for use, which also affects the usability. The results also show different objectives for use between dementia and somatic units. Although Swedish regulations include the common spaces as part of the housing unit, the different functions are used and perceived differently and to a varying degree. The spaces represent functions with varying proximity to the concept of home; placing the dining rooms closer and the kitchens further away. Higher degree of use on the dementia units places the common spaces closer to the concept of home here, compared to the somatic units.
Discussion: The normative aspects of architecture represent a fixation in time and space as they are manifested in the design processes and, as a result, in the physical structures. Usability, contrarily, represents relational aspects as it is created in continuous negotiation between the users, residents and staff, and the physical environment; or in the interaction between human and non-human actors. The prerequisites for use are continuously changing in relation to the planning context. Common spaces must be understood from an extended concept of home that takes into consideration the context of the building in use.