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Designing Safe and Secure Senior Living

Designing Safe and Secure Senior Living
October 18, 2021


As the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to more than double over the next 40 years, the need for active senior living campuses is ever increasing, as is the need to provide a safe and secure environment for this generation to flourish.  In this time of uncertainty, much has been discussed regarding meeting concerns for the health and safety of residents, while still allowing residents to have a comfortable and welcoming environment in which to live and entertain guests. Health, safety, and security issues are a typical part of our design process; however, the recent public health crisis pushed that requirement to the forefront and challenged our team to re-examine our design solutions.

Seniors are more susceptible to any number of diseases that may be introduced to their community including, but not limited to, influenza, pneumonia, and COVID-19.  As designers, we are challenged to find design solutions that will help protect this vulnerable population and still allow them a sense of freedom when living in these communities.  We are challenged to find ways to limit the spread of pathogens from one resident to another, and to seek out ways to protect residents and staff from visitors who could potentially introduce communicable disease.

Administrators of senior living communities are facing these challenges head on with resilient and flexible solutions such as temporary security stations, handheld temperature taking, and regularly cleaning surfaces.  There have been various short-term solutions employed by care providers that have been effective. From installing clear plexiglass walls, to setting up virtual calls on community laptops, to denying access to individuals deemed high-risk.  However, as the pandemic continues to progress, it has become increasingly clear that long-term solutions are necessary.

Recently, one of Bernardon’s senior living clients came to us with an opportunity to design a long-term solution.  The request was for the addition of two new entrances on opposite sides of their building that would lead to the main lobby at the center.  As designers, we asked ourselves: how can we secure both entrances without increasing staff, maintain a similar residential experience as before, and address health concerns now and into the future?

Bernardon’s design solution was the development of two new vestibules that would include a second door lockout feature. This feature provides a sheltered space for visitors to wait until they have undergone a health screening and have been cleared to proceed into the building. Upon entering the vestibule, a visitor finds a standalone temperature kiosk and communications terminal. Once the individual has passed the health screening, security personnel can release the second door and allow the visitor to enter the building.

The main entry point acts like a standard security desk/check-in area, except it is tucked into the wall to provide an unobstructed view into the building. This allows security personnel to see who is coming into the front entry, as well as register and evaluate visitors outside of the typical flow of residents coming and going. We wanted this area to be unobtrusive and feel like a natural part of the space, to provide security without detracting from a feeling of a welcoming and inviting environment.

This solution at the building’s entrance works in conjunction with the addition of a newly constructed gatehouse, also designed by Bernardon, at the front entrance to the campus.  By controlling the flow of traffic onto the campus, this checkpoint also helps to ensure that the safety of residents and employees can extend outside of the building.  The combination of these additions means that the security staff can be confident of the health and security of residents without imposing any additional risk on themselves.

These small, custom, renovations have elevated the health and security of the community without detracting from the aesthetics of the space or creating a feeling of imposition, which is added piece of mind for prospective residents.

Our Senior Living Team is tasked with pushing the boundaries of design and seeking unique solutions to small and complex problems. Bernardon differentiates itself by being particularly sensitive to each community’s culture and by providing a personal touch and response to just what our client needs.

If you would like to speak to a member of our Senior Living Team to solve your next design challenge, visit our contact page.


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