Health, safety and welfare are top of mind for any designer working on commercial interiors projects, but they’re especially critical in senior- and assisted-living facilities where residents may be more prone to slips and falls.
In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that adults over the age of 60 have the highest risk of death or serious injury arising from a fall, and the risk increases with age. In the U.S., 20-30% of older people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures or head trauma.
The staff at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Maxwell Group, a management company that operates 15 senior care communities with approximately 3,000 units across six states, understands firsthand how important safety is to both patients and their families. So, when it came time to renovate an assisted living and memory care community in the company’s backyard, aptly named The Charlotte, the staff chose to install Sole with SensFloor Technology, a new smart floor system from Shaw Contract that harnesses the power of technology to ensure the safety of its residents and provide valuable data to caregiving staff.
“We’re always trying to stay up to date with the latest technology and ways that we can help our members with one of the biggest issues, which is safety, and making sure we have quick reaction times,” said Gina Gaines, director of design for Maxwell Group. “This seemed like a good opportunity with the [SensFloor] technology to see it applied, especially in a memory care setting. It helps to have a record of what’s going on with residents, and it gives accountability to families as well.”
Innovative and Invisible by Design
Sole is a groundbreaking flooring underlayment product that is equipped with capacitive sensors that can detect movement in a space and, more importantly, send alerts to staff when falls or other noteworthy events occur. Using a non-pressure-based system for tracking, Sole can be installed beneath flooring products such as carpet or hard-surface products in new construction or renovation projects in a way that’s invisible and unobtrusive.
“The technology piece of the installation uses capacitive sensor technology, similar to that of a smartphone, that uses a dielectric current for tracking,” explained Allison Wolff, director of Healthcare and Senior Living at Shaw. “This current can register through any Shaw Contract flooring [surface] to capture movement, detect falls, alert to large spills or flooding, as well as be used to connect to other smart technologies such as wearables, lights, music and nurse call systems.”
The smart floor technology is an alternative to wearables or cameras providing privacy and independence for residents, increasing opportunity for smart personal engagement and monitoring while maintaining resident dignity and privacy.
Because Sole is installed beneath the flooring surface, there are virtually no limitations to the design possibilities. “From our perspective, this product—which I think is intended to be this way—is invisible in terms of a design perspective,” said Aniello Salierno, chief information officer at Maxwell Group. “The nice thing about it is, there are little to no limitations that I’m aware of.”
Gaines agreed and added that one of Sole’s biggest advantages from a design standpoint is that “it doesn’t limit us in any way, which is great, because a lot of technology does.”
Advantages for Families and Staff
Safety, peace of mind, privacy and dignity are among the most important factors seniors and their adult children consider when choosing a senior living environment for the next chapter of life. Flooring isn’t typically part of that decision-making process, but with Sole, it could be.
“For me, one of the big things is the safety and the comfort that I feel like this [technology] gives to families,” Gaines said. For example, the system can send notifications to a nurse even at night when a resident is up and walking and provide valuable information they would not have known in the past.
Likewise, Sole can eliminate the need for a resident to notify the care team if they experience a fall or are moving about, which is one of the largest variables in community management, according to Wolff. She noted that hourly rounds can result in 17% engagement during a 24-hour period, while Sole with SensFloor can discreetly monitor for the other 83% of time.
Additionally, with turnover reported as high as 40% for care staff, senior care communities are searching for the right combination of recruitment, paid wages and job design to improve worker satisfaction and drive retention, according to Wolff. “A Sole installation can help by delivering information into the hands of caregivers that supplements and informs the plans for care,” she noted.
Nick Peters, vice president of Healthcare and Senior Living at Shaw, said that not only is this new technology about providing a sense of well-being in The Charlotte and other communities, but also, it’s about moving away from an institutional feel that other technologies often elicit and toward a more residential and hospitality-like aesthetic.
“How do you give that that resident—our older generations that absolutely deserve it—the most dignity and that feeling of non-intrusive, non-invasive care to really complement the processes the care staff has, while at the same time, increasing operational efficiencies and potentially help alleviate some of the stress or the anxiety of the care staff?” Peters considered. “If we can contribute to all of those pieces—better resident experience, better operational experience, retention and attractions of staff—I think it’s a plus-plus.”
For the residents and staff at The Charlotte, Sole has proved to be a big positive.