GARDENS: Design for older people

The Sensory Trust is a leading authority on inclusive and sensory design. They use nature and the outdoors to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with disability and health issues, their families and carers. Their website is full of inspirational ideas and well worth a visit. We particularly enjoyed their feature on making landscapes, in particular gardens, both public and private, safer for older people.

They consider each issue from three angles: Characteristic; Implications for design; and Design solutions

Characteristic: Reduced mobility (ability to get around)
Implications for design: Access is limited by obstacles like steps, uneven surfaces, gradients, slips and trips
Design solutions: Reduced gradients; choice of ramp and steps; level, firm surfaces; handrails and supports; design for wheelchairs and mobility aids

Characteristic: Reduced stamina (tiring easily)
Implications for design: Distance and gradients become a significant issue
Design solutions: Seats to reduce impact of distance and grades; choice of route lengths; maximise interest within easy reach

Characteristic: Reduced dexterity (eg from arthritis, Parkinson’s)
Implications for design: Fine motor skills are more difficult and can be painful – turning handles, locks etc
Design solutions:  Choose easy-to-use handles, gate latches, locks etc

Characteristic: Falls and impaired balance
Implications for design: Reduced confidence to go out and higher risk of injury
Design solutions:  Good access, low impact hard surfaces , careful siting of furniture and features, handrails and supports

Characteristic: Visual impairment
Implications for design: Items like furniture, signboards and steps can become hazards if not well designed
Design solutions: Careful siting of furniture and signage, good colour contrast, tactile indicators, sensory design to cater for all senses, remove hazards

Characteristic: Hearing impairment
Implications for design: Not alert to aural cues eg alarms and approaching traffic
Design solutions: Include visual alarms and clearly differentiate vehicular and pedestrian routes

Characteristic: Alzheimer’s, dementia
Implications for design: Reduced ability to cope with complex designs, reduced memory, may want to wander
Design solutions: Legible designs, familiar settings and detail, design for reminiscence, safe materials, secure and comfortable

Characteristic: Sensitivity to weather
Implications for design: Need for protection from weather extremes
Design solutions: Shelter, shade, use of indoor/outdoor spaces eg conservatories

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