The office for national statistics confirms that more than 18% of the UK population is aged 65 and over. This equates to around one person in five and this is projected to reach around one in every four people (24.2%) in the next 20 years, writes Tom Devin, of Devin Consulting. Our population of seniors has high expectations – we are living longer and are fitter than our parents and grandparents and the business approach for retirement homes must adopt a completely new perspective. The traditional model for retirement homes is being turned on its head as new ‘Later Living’ developments are incorporating modern technology and offering high end amenities with an emphasis on health and wellness, In a departure from the past, retirement homes are increasingly being operated by the developer who builds and manages the site offering a village-like community with restaurants , GP surgeries, cinemas, guest accommodation for visitors, games rooms, gyms, pools and health suites.
This new model is attracting serious investors like Legal & General who plan to build 50 such later living developments over the next 10 years. Devin Consulting has led the way in tailoring pool and spa design for this demographic and has worked closely with the design teams for companies like Legal & General, Auriens, Elysian Residences and Pegasus Life to develop best practice. Space is a vital consideration when it comes to planning spa amenities for an aging client group – doors to steam and sauna rooms need to be wider and ample space must be allowed within to allow wheelchair users to turn.
Suitability of exposed heating elements in sauna cabins should also be a consideration to protect users from stumbling or falling into the heat source. Specialist engineering does not need to compromise the architects’ vision. There is a balance to be sought between future proofing the facilities and anticipating a time when residents become a little more infirm and require extra help, and creating beautiful facilities with the look and feel of a health club and spa – and this is where Devin’s experience is invaluable. Our population of One safety measure that appeals to designers is the use of full glass frontage for heat experience cabins – it allows for easy observation in case of falls or illness and it looks stunning as well. With regards to pool design, Devin recommends level deck pools for ease of access with walk in steps with hand rails rather than ladders; additionally, an in-pool hand rail can be considered for extra grip.
Some clients are also allowing for in-pool access platforms which allow users with poor mobility to enter the pool without the use of a hoist – Devin has designed a bespoke option for this. Another consideration is that of slippage – a high level slip resistance finish should be used to prevent falls due to slippery surfaces. With regards to spa pool design, consideration must be given to the water features elements; softer water jets are better for the more delicate skin – so avoid deep tissue massage features. Whilst safety for the end user is paramount throughout the design process, the aesthetics are always at the forefront of the projects.
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