Old problem, new approach

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Old problem, new approach
Old problem, new approach
Visitors to the annual American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging conference in Philadelphia saw something new this year. There, on the floor at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, aspiring interior designers competed for the chance to be AAHSA's “Last Designer Standing.” 

Eight teams of students spent weeks coming up with new and interesting ways to spruce up tired, old skilled nursing units. Soon eight became whittled to two, which competed at the show. 

Attendees voted for their favorite and the Green Team emerged victorious. Winning-team captains Diana Dougherty and Michelle Prieston shared their successful strategy with McKnight's. 

The Green Team

“We're famous now,” joked Dougherty about her team's time in the limelight. Dougherty and Prieston are both juniors and interior design majors at Drexel University in Philadelphia. 

For the competition, teams were asked to pick a local nursing home resident and design a room around him or her. Dougherty and Prieston's team decided upon Rebecca Griffin, 87, of St. Ignatius, a nearby long-term care facility. 

“We thought she had a lot of flair as an older woman,” said Prieston. “We decided we really wanted to play with color, and really just reflect on the spice and the vivaciousness about her,” she added. 

A red ceramic-tile headboard holds a striking position at the top of the bed. Not only is this a dramatic design element, it serves a function, according to Dougherty.

One concern in many skilled nursing rooms is that hospital beds tend to slide into the walls, breaking off bits of drywall. This is a beautiful, creative way to protect the bed and the wall behind it, she noted. 

Color coordination 

Color scheme is important when designing a room for an elderly person, both young designers said. Most of the rooms they visited while researching the project were monochromatic, mostly white or beige. 

“It's a big problem, actually,” says Prieston. “The elderly need high contrasting surfaces because as you lose your eyesight, it's more difficult to decipher which surface is which, and that's how accidents and falls happen.”
To help solve this problem, the team used warm, contrasting colors to give a cozy look, while at the same time creating enough depth and dimension to make navigating the room easy for any resident. Burgundy, black, gold and gray make up the room's color palate. 

On the bench

The No. 1 challenge Dougherty and Prieston said they noticed about traditional nursing home designs was a lack of seating.

As a way to overcome this challenge, the team installed a seven-foot-long bench to make guests more comfortable. It can seat five adults comfortably and, if the room were just a little bigger, Dougherty said, the bench could be widened and serve as a bed for a visitor to sleep on. 

As winners of AAHSA's “Last Designer Standing” competition, Dougherty, Prieston and teammates Katelyn Goodman and Megan McGregor shared a $1,000 prize, and received framed certificates of achievement. Griffin, the resident, got to keep the room that was designed for her. 

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