We had a very busy month in August, continue reading to see all the events we attended, awards we receive, and our featured and coming soon projects.
Mesa, AZ: Thoma-Holec Design announced that Interior Designer Lisa Warnock will be joining Thoma-Holec Design as Principal, effective October 24, 2021. Lisa will lead the launch of the new Northwest Studio in Portland, OR, specializing in senior living, multi-family and hospitality design. She will work alongside LuAnn Thoma-Holec, Principal Owner, to further expand the Thoma-Holec Design brand into new sectors.
Lisa is an accomplished interior designer with over 20 years of experience in senior living, multi-family, and hospitality. Lisa earned her BA in Interior Design at Marylhurst University, and since then, she’s had much success as an interior designer leading various award-winning projects within senior living, multi-family, and hospitality. Lisa’s extensive design knowledge, experience, and work ethic led her to multiple promotions earning the title of Principal, and most recently, Director of Housing Interiors at LRS Architects, where she was responsible for client management, business development, and the overall design direction of projects.
Aside from her extensive interior design knowledge, Lisa is also a talented public speaker with the most recent speaking engagements at the 2021 EFA Conference. She is well recognized in the industry for her passion for championing better practices to serve our most vulnerable citizens. In 2020 Lisa was the EFA Design Champion for her innovation to improve the daily life of residents by incorporating lighting strategies that automatically distribute the proper color and output of light to improve comfort and safety. In addition to her design work, Lisa is a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and served on the Lighting for the Aged and Partially Sighted Committee.
” I have long admired the amazing work that Thoma-Holec Design does, and I am thrilled to be a part of it! I feel so very grateful to be able to learn from and grow with the best out there, and the very talented LuAnn Holec,” says Lisa Warnock.
“Thoma-Holec Design is so fortunate to have Lisa joining our team. Lisa brings a level of expertise that will open additional doors for us, as well as a wealth of knowledge to our current senior housing sector,” says LuAnn Thoma-Holec, Principal Owner at Thoma-Holec Design.
About Thoma-Holec Design: Thoma-Holec Design was founded in 2006 by LuAnn Thoma-Holec, FASID, and is now a national award-winning senior living design firm with passion and expertise for designing comfortable, functional, innovative, and dignified environments for seniors. Our team offers specialized skills in designing practical yet elegant environments for the senior living market and multi-family.
Our team had the great opportunity to learn from some of the best in the senior living industry at the 2021 August EFA Expo & Conference in Chattanooga, TN. We received a wealth of information and ideas on ways to continue improving the quality of life in senior living while creating beautiful environments with a purpose through the power of design. However, we realize that passing down all that information in one blog would be nearly impossible. So here is a summary of a few topics that seemed to be trending among various speakers.
Intergenerational Community Concepts
This topic came up several times during various presentations. Intergenerational living is thought as a way to combat social isolation and loneliness among seniors, as this has been linked to health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease. Our connection to others enables us to survive and thrive. Intergenerational community concepts strategically place senior living communities near daycares and grade schools to ensure seniors continue to participate in our communities. Programming is also a key in promoting activities among the different generations for socialization, learning opportunities, or play. Another intergenerational concept discussed was building seniors communities in the center of multi-family buildings where family members or caregivers who work in the senior units could potentially live in the multi-family apartments. The point is to avoid casting aside our elderly citizens and instead design communities where it facilitates socialization so they can continue to feel part of a larger community around them.
Smaller and More Defined Spaces
In a world where Covid is still very real, there were many discussions on how design can make it easier for residents to gather in smaller groups. Although open concepts help make a room feel much larger, the need for more defined and intimate spaces where a handful of residents can gather for tea or a game of cards seemed to be a trending topic of discussion. Open concepts spaces have proven to be less multi-functional because only one or two activities can occur simultaneously. Opposed to segmented spaces or smaller niches throughout the community that provide more privacy and allow for various activities without disturbing others.
Design That Promotes Efficiency and Wellness Among Staff
As operators continue to face staffing challenges, various presentations talked about how design can promote wellness among staff and possibly make their jobs less demanding to avoid burnout. Considering the day-to-day responsibilities and tasks is vital to designing spaces that logistically make sense for the staff members. A simple but thoughtful design is to strategically position storage rooms through the community that helps cut back on the amount of walking throughout the day—or perhaps ensuring that there is always enough clearance in wet areas such as a bathroom where a wheelchair, a resident, and a staff member often need to be in the same space at the same time. These simple decisions can not only avoid potential injuries, but it increases the caregiver’s efficiency. As for promoting wellness, incorporating a well-designed staff lounge with dining tables and couches to relax during their break can also help avoid burnout and increase morale among the staff.
Design That Promotes Movement & Participation
Although this is not a new concept, it’s always worth mentioning. As we age, we begin to lose muscles and mobility, and our environment can make an enormous difference in whether we continue to move. Giving residents an easy way and a reason to get out of their room can make a difference in that resident’s health. An example given was designing shorter corridors and presenting a more enticing view straight from the resident door. It provides that resident with an apparent reason to get out and socialize or take part in an activity. Another way of promoting movement is by including design elements that allow residents to participate in their daily care. For instance, by having armrests on shower seats, the resident can participate and help the caregiver in these daily tasks. Or having handrails by the sink where they might pull themselves up to perform daily hygiene tasks. Design that promotes movement and participation gives residents a sense of dignity and ensures that they continue moving their bodies.
At the Thoma-Holed Design firm, we consider ongoing education a vital source in designing innovative solutions for our clients, residents, and staff of the senior living communities. If you have any questions about the topics above or would like to discuss any other challenges you might be facing in a current community or new construction, we would love the opportunity to share our research base design solutions with you.
Recently we conducted a series of interviews with four of our clients Cadence, MorningStar, Liv Generations, and HarborChase. We wanted to know what protocols worked and which didn’t. Were there any major restructuring of living spaces and programming among their communities? What did they learn, and how will they continue to move forward in a post-pandemic world. As a design firm that focuses on senior living, obtaining this information was imperative to ensure we continue developing communities that enrich residents’ lives and promote a safe and healthy lifestyle.
In the first round of questions, we focused on the communities vaccine policies, sick time, and pay. All clients took similar approaches concerning the vaccines; not many communities mandated the vaccine among their staff or residents. However, some clients stated that they provided incentives such as increased pay, gift cards, and raffles for their staff. The residents were very compliant in regard to taking the vaccine, so no mandates were necessary. However, some communities did require new residents or new hires to be already vaccinated.
As we continued our questions into foodservice and social distancing, our clients shared that due to the significant differences within the local government guidelines from county to cities, they had to adapt quickly and make rapid changes, but making unified operation decisions among all communities was very difficult. Many communities offered room service and meal delivery via carts during the initial lockdown. Other communities opened their dining rooms to residents during the lockdown, with strict social distancing procedures and staggered mealtimes, but it varied by local restrictions. The communities did not allow anybody that was not staff or resident inside, so they felt comfortable allowing their residents to have safe and socially distant interactions with one another. An enforced two-week quarantine was in place only if someone in the community contracted covid.
Learning about the functionality of amenities and spaces throughout the communities was very important for us. We wanted to know what held up and what didn’t, whether it be furniture, fabrics, individual rooms, or space layouts. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that most furniture and materials did great at withstanding the daily use of harsh chemicals used to disinfect. They also expressed that spaces such as hallways and expanded intersections of each floor became a way for residents to gather around and interact while still socially distancing. These spaces proved to be more flexible than the closed-off game or activity rooms. Other areas that became essential were the outdoor patios, pools, and gardens. It permitted staff to hold more interactive activities for the residents while minimizing the risks.
However, there were challenges when it came to areas such as mailrooms and marketing rooms. People who were not residents or staff needed access to these rooms, but due to its location within the community and having no direct access from the outside, it created a risk factor and presented the staff with challenges when receiving mail. Various clients expressed that they would like to rethink the location and the outside accessibility to these rooms for current and new construction communities. They also mentioned that they would be revisiting the size and layout of resident’s rooms to allow for an eating area and more outdoor space such as private balconies.
We asked our clients if they consider moving away from a residential or hospitality design to facilitate their medical needs. They unanimously said no. They believe new architectural builds are still effective and can attend to all needs of the residents. However, there will be some changes, such as moving into more touchless controls in common areas and incorporating more indoor-outdoor experience to create better airflow. Selecting cleanable non-porous materials will also be a big push among communities. However, dining areas will likely remain the same as the design often includes dividers and booth seating that give the residents privacy and plenty of room for social distance.
In conclusion, although there will be some changes in senior living communities in the years to come, whether from new materials, finishes or technology. These changes will only further improve the safety and well-being of the residents. Of course, you can still expect to see vibrant designs and amenity-rich senior living communities that help create beautiful living experiences for the residents.