What’s the Best Flooring for Senior Living Facilities?
By Bill Imhoff
The aging of America is creating an increasing need for senior living housing options. It’s estimated that about one million Americans already live in some type of senior living community. The CDC expects that over a fifth of the population in the United States will soon be 65 years or older, compared to only 15.6 percent today. So, it’s no surprise that senior living residents are expected to double within the next couple of decades.
The growth in older age groups means more senior housing development, whether it is an independent living, assisted living, memory care, continuing care retirement communities or other types of housing. In fact,
With Texas having the third-highest concentration of seniors, many markets across Texas are seeing new construction and renovation of senior living facilities to meet that demand. While these may be similar in function to other housing like dorms and apartment complexes, senior housing designers must consider many unique nuances to be safe, attractive and affordable for older residents. The choice of flooring is a key component in meeting both resident and staff needs in senior housing. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best flooring for a senior living facility.
The floors in senior housing facilities must stand the traffic test. You can expect a steady flow of visitors, around-the-clock staffing and the movement of residents themselves. In addition to people traffic, your floors must stand up to the wear and tear of daily medication and food carts, wheelchairs and walkers, and rolling beds in some cases.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of death and injury among Americans 65 and older. Safety should be a top consideration when choosing flooring for senior housing. Choices should be slip-resistant and incorporate colors and designs that enhance wayfinding.
Spills are inevitable. Senior living facility floors should be water-resistant, easy maintenance and antimicrobial.
The Bottom Line: Value AND Function
Ultimately, choosing the right flooring is a balancing act that achieves the desired look, meets the functional needs and fits within the design budget.
“The equipment that creates the right look and feel to attract residents not only must project the right image and aesthetic, it also must be affordable,” says John Andrews in a recent McKnights Senior Living article.
“The main difference between a “cheap price” and “good value” is that “cheap deals are exactly what they seem — too good to be true,” says Jennifer Michalski, assistant manager of national accounts for C/S Eldercare Interiors, in the McKnight’s article.
“Good value comes from long-lasting products that can stand the test of time both physically and visually and that can be easily maintained in case something happens. Price can be a driver in the decision-making process, but quality and durability will weigh heavily on the final decision. Most facilities and designers will pay a little bit more for a product that will stand the test of time.”
Best Options by Area
Let’s talk about flooring options for the different areas within a senior living facility. What works well, and what doesn’t? Here are my personal recommendations from more than 30 years of flooring experience.
Hallways and Entries
In entryways, typically we see a walk-off mat that extends into the foyer and connects to ceramic tile, LVT or both. In main hallways, sheet vinyl, LVT or ceramic tile are most commonly used, but in resident area hallways, carpet laid over a glued-down pad is most common. The added benefit of many carpets and LVTs is their built-in antimicrobial features.
When Westminster remodeled its Austin senior living facility in 2021, they wanted a high-end aesthetic and opted for carpet over the pad in main hallways. A striking 20-foot-long block pattern with repeat was chosen to catch the eye of families and draw them in. To assist with wayfinding, they incorporated LVT at hallway intersections.
Resident Living Areas
Sheet vinyl that gives the appearance of wood provides a modern, home-like aesthetic. At the same time, it ensures easy clean-up and is germ resistant. However, it’s important that the flooring installer address any moisture in the subfloors before installation.
The VA senior living facilities in Bonham, Floresville and Big Spring, for instance, are in areas prone to more moisture. Before installing LVT and sheet vinyl with glue down, a moisture barrier was critical to avoid adhesive issues later.
Dining Kitchen, Healthcare and Recreation Areas
To minimize noise, many facilities opt for carpet in their dining areas. In the busy commercial kitchens of a senior facility, however, rubber flooring like Protect-All is a great selection. These 5×8 sheets are glued down with welded seams which protect from water seepage. Rubber flooring provides the heavy-duty power to withstand drops, spills and cart traffic. In therapy rooms and recreation areas, LVT is a good option for ease of maintenance, durability and germ resistance.
Other Things to Consider
When replacing older flooring in a senior living facility, here are a few other things to look for that will help ensure a successful project:
- Choose flooring that can be installed quickly, dries quickly and has low VOCs.
- Ask your flooring contractor for a written work calendar so your staff and residents know where they will be working each day. Often this work is done at night to minimize interruptions during busier daytime hours. Have a plan for moving residents into other areas temporarily while work is underway.
- Always opt for products that ensure easy maintenance, are slip/fall resistant and are antimicrobial.
- Choose colors and patterns that benefit the needs of older residents (for instance, those with vision impairment or dementia)
- Make sure your flooring contractor has a plan for quickly moving furniture to minimize resident disruption.
Bill Imhoff is President/CEO of Intertech Flooring, leads three regional offices serving commercial clients across Texas and the Southwest.
This article was originally published in the Austin Business Journal and is used with permission. The original article can be found here. As an invited member of the Business Journal’s Leadership Trust, Bill provides thought-leadership content and advice to the Austin business community around his areas of expertise, including commercial flooring, entrepreneurship, leadership and workforce development.
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