Seniors encounter all sorts of issues that their younger counterparts are often spared from. For example, their eyes have a slower reflex time. So when a hospital is fitted with glaring lights, it can lead to problems with walking for the elderly as it takes them longer to register. According to Dr. Diana Anderson, an architect currently engaged in internal medicine residence at New York-Presbyterian Hospital:
“The hospital can be a hazardous place for anyone, but particularly for the elderly. Hospitalization is one of the major risk factors for older people. We can end up seeing irreversible decline in their functional status after they’re admitted. This decline cannot always be attributed to a progression of their presenting medical problem.”
Another issue the elderly tend to encounter at hospitals is the mattresses. Since older people have thinner skin, they need softer mattresses. They also feel the cold more and what might be perceived as white noise by other patients (monitors, gadgets etc.), can have a strong interfering effect on the elderly, making it harder for them to communicate with staff.
Thus Anderson is seeking to make it safer for the elderly in these such environments. She has also decided to practice “dochitect” medicine, a term she coined herself which is a combination of architecture and medical knowledge that will hopefully ultimately result in safer environments for the elderly at hospitals.
Thankfully today, Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), has recognized over 500 senior-friendly hospitals and 100 skilled-nursing facilities for their senior-friendly programs and physical environments.