Do you have a luxury hospitality brand aimed at the financially-secure baby boomer generation? Designing for an older generation isn’t just about a more traditional aesthetic. It requires an understanding of the physical and mental characteristics of this population. Most of us begin to notice changes in our body and memory in our mid-forties, and around the age of 60, more noticeable changes begin to occur, requiring different design parameters.

The majority of boomers have vision problems, are sensitive to glare, and are also hearing impaired. These problems cause discomfort and affect attention span, making conversations difficult which can create a sense of isolation. Dining areas filled with glare and noise exacerbate the problem. Tables should be small and the chair arms should fit under the table so food isn’t out of reach. Arms on dining chairs as well as sofas and accent chairs should extend beyond the seat so the person can stand up and sit with better support, and the seat should not be too low.

With the use of well-designed lighting, proper flooring materials, level and interesting walking paths, and well-designed handrails and supports, seniors can increase their mobility and get more exercise which increases both their physical and mental health. Circulatory problems, agitation, and depression are at least partially caused by lack of motion. People feel more comfortable moving around in an environment that offers stability. A well-designed handrail along corridors and walkways allows people to grasp the rail and permits them to glide along the rail, leaning on the forearm if needed. And oval shape, with a broader, flat surface that can be used for arm support is best. Insufficient lighting along walkways is one of the biggest problems for those with vision problems.

Using softer flooring materials such as wood or faux wood with rubber padding under it, or a low-pile carpet helps mitigate the hazards of a fall. Throw rugs, although homey, are major trip hazards. In addition to being soft, carpet improves acoustics and reduces glare which is a huge issue for older eyes. Patterns in the flooring material should be kept to a minimum, because they can put seniors off balance. There should be a clear distinction between the vertical wall plane and the horizontal floor plane. That means matching the wall base to the wall, not the floor. Because of impaired depth perception, a sharp contrast between the color of the floor and the wall is necessary. Balance is affected when the distinction is not clear.

Most buildings aren’t designed with an understanding of managing not only physical impairment, but cognitive impairment as well. Building and interior design is integral to wellbeing for seniors. There will be a larger percentage of the total elderly population in the future, and the number of disabled seniors is expected to grow. Most seniors have multiple disabilities, but environments can be designed to provide support, enhance, and simplify lives, and make them more enjoyable.