One of the greatest challenges of caring for people with memory loss is entering their world, so that interactions — and the places they live — truly serve who these elders are as people. Since someone may be in good health when they apply for a reverse mortgage and experience cognitive decline in subsequent years, (or their spouse may be the one affected) it behooves loan originators to be aware of evolving housing options in memory care.
A home that evokes yesteryear
The CEO of one assisted living corporation listened deeply to what his residents were telling staff, with both their words and their behavior, and began to understand the enormous impact environment has on those who rely on external cues to guide their lives.
The result is so far beyond the box it literally turns dementia care housing inside out. Lantern, aptly named, designs insides that look like outsides, complete with sunrise and sunset, moon and stars, and quiet neighborhood streets with front porches reminiscent of the 1930s and ’40s, when many of the residents were young — all within the facility. The innovative memory care design also includes carpet that resembles grass, aromatherapy for brightening brains, and appropriate day and evening sounds.
As the day evolves, the digital sky transforms to keep residents’ biological clocks in sync, while the timed release of aromas such as peppermint and citrus help improve cognitive functioning. With exercise and engagement, the unique living design may go a long way towards forestalling further decline.
CEO Jean Makesh says, “One of the frustrating shortcomings of most nursing facilities is that they create conflicts, with unnatural environments and schedules, and they try to solve them by throwing antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications at patients. In other words, when someone has severe dementia, we often give up on them. From there, they stop getting the engagement their brain needs to thrive.”
While his unique design is not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a quantum leap in the right direction.
Smart homes for seniors, not Millennials
In fact, smart homes themselves ought to be designed with seniors in mind, rather than young people, argues Swedish designer Kevin Gaunt. And he’s not talking about thermostat controls, but alleviating what he perceives as the number one challenge of aging: boredom.
Gaunt imagines the smart home of the future as having “the equivalent of a fuse box full of bots, each of which are denoted by simple symbols (a stack of coins for banking, or a bag for shopping) and can link their functionality together to battle boredom in the elderly.”
His vision contains quite a bit of rascalry, as this short video demonstrates: a shopping bot orders the senior client a skateboard in lieu of flowers, the socializer bot alerts her when a pesky neighbor is about to ring the bell, and, perhaps most poignantly, the personality bot mimics the bad puns her departed husband used to make.
“As chips and production costs become cheaper, and technology in our everyday objects becomes more ubiquitous,” it’s likely that a shift to elder needs will supplant the focus on youth as early adopters, observes Gaunt.
Considering that there is fast becoming an app for almost every aspect of aging, making the home front as senior-supportive as possible just makes sense as the next Internet of Things frontier.