Blima Ehrentreu

Recent trends indicate an increase in healthy living and mental well-being in environments with biophilic design elements. However, incorporating nature into interiors is more than just a trend — it represents a significant, long-term trajectory for the future of architecture and interior design. 

With around 15,600 operating nursing homes and 1.3 million residents in senior care and counting in the United States, many aging Americans are adjusting to new lifestyles and residential environments. Designers can rejuvenate these spaces to promote relaxation and tranquility, allowing residents to age gracefully in place. Incorporating nature through biophilic design elements presents a fresh opportunity for designers to establish familiarity, relaxation, and comfort in senior living spaces.

Given that there is an increase of more than 50% in Americans over 65 years old requiring nursing home care, it is paramount that senior living facilities provide an enhanced level of care for each and every resident. 

With physical and mental wellbeing front of mind, designers can spearhead the addition of biophilia and nature into interior spaces, prioritizing wellness that complements other treatment and care programs. Equipping every room with natural light, providing access to windows for ventilation, incorporating plants into indoor spaces, and using earth-tone colors and neutral shades are all ways that designers can blend the lines of indoor and outdoor. These design strategies, backed by numerous studies, are proven to physically, mentally and emotionally benefit people’s well-being, increasing lifespan and overall happiness.

The boom in demand for senior care calls for the construction of infrastructure to support a strengthening sense of community for both residents and staff members. Providers should encourage residents to maintain physical activity and, perhaps most importantly, positive social interactions. 

We recently partnered with Atlas Healthcare Group to renovate Cedar Grove Respiratory and Nursing in Williamstown, NJ, opening this winter. With a specific focus on the lobby, rehabilitation gym, nurses station, dining room, recreation areas, resident rooms and corridors, the facility’s existing structure is enhanced by modern renovations. 

Specifically, our team focused on bringing in natural light from strategically placed windows, brightening the rooms and providing beautiful views for residents to enjoy, as studies show that productivity and overall activity levels increase when natural light is present. Sunlight can bring warmth and brightness into interiors, boosting morale and happiness while encouraging social interactions and promoting togetherness.

With a sophisticated and modern outlook, designers can further elevate high-end nursing home spaces through earth tones inspired by natural outdoor elements. Natural color palettes are proven to have a plethora of health benefits, including enhancing concentration, lowering heart rates and blood pressure, and lessening anxiety. Studies have also shown a direct correlation between colors that mimic the beauty of nature and people’s physiological and psychological health, inherently creating a more positive environment. Surrounding spaces with earthy colors can allow users to fully embrace nature while making atmospheres reminiscent of their own backyards and outdoor areas.

Designers have the unique opportunity to connect senior care facilities to nature through thoughtfully crafted design strategies and elements. Inviting as much natural light as possible and using earth-tone colors and other biophilic elements promote stress-free, calming environments for all residents to enjoy. 

At the core, it is the goal for staff and residents to enjoy each other’s company through facility building beginning with a strong, foundational infrastructure and built environment. Nature and biophilia in interior spaces open the doors for designers to push creative boundaries and find new ways to help benefit and promote longer-lasting, happier lifestyles.

Blima Ehrentreu is the founder and CEO of The Designers Group.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.