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Surfacing in a Senior Living Community Center: A Complete Guide

Interior and exterior design in senior living centers have undergone an incredible transformation. Unlike in the past years, the modern senior living design aims at accommodating age-related challenges and conditions. Plus, the elderly population living in senior living centers are looking up to communities to support their active lifestyle through enhanced offerings.

Transitioning to a senior living setting itself is a hard sell for most elder members. Hence, when they move into a senior living facility, they expect to maintain some independence and live in comfort. They are mostly looking for a barrier-free lifestyle that maintains a certain level of comfort and familiarity while balancing accessibility and safety.

Whether it’s the common area, the dining area, library, media/TV room, or the pool, seniors expect spaces to be safe, easy to access, and versatile.

Flooring is a critical component of senior living design that impacts the way you use a space. This guide offers complete information on the ideal flooring options for senior living centers. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to make a suitable choice for the comfort and convenience of your senior members.

Top Considerations for an Ideal Senior Living Surface

Before we get started with the different flooring options for senior living, let’s look at the factors that need to be considered. This will help you choose a suitable surface for your senior living facility.

1. Safety

The National Council of Aging shares interesting statistics about slips and falls in older adults.

  • 1 in 4 Americans aged 65+ are victims of a fall every year.
  • Falls among older adults are a leading cause of fatal injuries and non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions.
  • By the end of this year, the financial toll for senior falls is expected to increase to $67.7 billion.
  • Falls among seniors result in more than 2.8 million injuries each year and they are treated in emergency departments. This number includes more than 27,000 deaths.

The above statistics point towards the growing importance of making senior safety a priority. The flooring of a senior care center should be slip-resistant and firm underfoot. This is especially true for facilities where older adults are going through physical therapy and rehabilitation or have limited mobility.

Moreover, gait disorders are common in older adults. A research paper published in the Merck Manual reveals that the gait speed, chair rise time, and the ability to do tandem stance reduces with age. This can be particularly dangerous if the ground beneath their feet is uneven or slippery.

Installing slip-resistant flooring shows that you care for the safety and health of your elderly members. An anti-slip flooring like EPDM rubber surfaces ensures consistent friction when elders move around the facility, enabling them to take each step with confidence. Besides, this flooring can be easily applied over existing surfaces and is quite versatile.

2. Ease of Travel

Most seniors use assistive devices like walkers, wheelchairs, canes, and scooters to move from one place to another. Hence, every senior care center should ensure that its members feel safe moving between rooms.

Plus, they should be able to transition from one flooring type to another without risking a fall. For instance, if they are moving from a carpeted area to a rubber surfaced hallway, the facility should ensure that there’s a minimum height difference between the materials.

The surface and the transitions should offer enough support to the mobility devices used, allowing them to safely and independently commute between spaces.

3. Cleaning and Maintenance

Whether you like it or not, our body’s immunity reduces with age. This makes seniors highly susceptible to illnesses and allergies. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a clean and hygienic environment in the senior living community center.

So, you need a seamless and non-porous surface that’s inhospitable to pathogens and allergens. Most floors like carpets and cork are comfortable underfoot but are home to bacteria, viruses,  mold, and allergens. Plus, in case of an accident or a spill, it’s tough to clean these flooring types.

To uphold the health of your senior members, you need a surface that can be cleaned with minimal effort. Also, maintaining the surface should be a breeze.

4. Comfort

For elders with aches and joint pains, simply walking can be a huge task. An uncomfortable and hard surface will only add to this problem. Hardwood, tiles, and concrete floors can be tough on their knee and ankle joints, aggravating their joint pain and making them feel more fatigued after standing or moving for long. Moreover, these surfaces are slick and aren’t advisable for seniors as they have brittle bones.

Therefore, comfort is a critical factor that needs to be considered when choosing a flooring material for a senior care facility.

5. Shock and Sound Absorption

Kenneth Cooper, the founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics points out in an interview, “Baby boomers have led an unprecedented fitness revolution, into a kind of golden era of health.” Today, over 35 percent of America’s largest population group exercise regularly. In fact, boomers are more active than their previous generations and care about having enough energy to manage multiple tasks and live independently.

Whether they are self-motivated or have been advised by their doctors to do so, boomers are expected to live this active lifestyle for several years to come. Hence, senior living facilities and community centers should plan to support their fitness and recreational activities.

If you have older members engaging in yoga, tennis or pickleball, aerobics, and weight lifting, it’s wise to install a surface that’ll absorb all the impact of these intense activities. It’s wise to install a shock and sound-absorbing surfacing to protect their aging joints. The surface should meet or exceed the standards set by ASTM F2772 Athletic Performance of Indoor Sport Systems.

6. Durability

Senior care centers see a lot of foot traffic. Also, these surfaces are frequented by mobility and disability aids. All of this can cause surfaces to wear. Therefore, it’s important to choose a flooring that’s resistant to routine damage and doesn’t look worn out soon.

7. Aesthetics

Aesthetics may not be considered as critical as the other factors mentioned above. However, a senior care center should aim at offering a neutral aesthetic environment that’s inviting, not confusing.

Without a doubt, overly intricate flooring patterns and designs add an interesting appeal to spaces; however, these may confuse seniors, especially those suffering from neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. We typically recommend that the color of the flooring should be in contrast with the walls, making it easy for them to distinguish.

Moreover, senior living centers should create a home-like inviting atmosphere. Nothing can add visual warmth and a subdued yet attractive look like poured-in-place rubber surfacing. Rubcorp has an entire selection of cool to warm tones, light to dark looks, and a variety of speckled looks that can complement your overall decor.

The significance of these factors will vary depending on the location you are applying the flooring to. For instance, if you are considering changing the bathroom flooring in your senior living community center, you need to choose a non-slip material that resists moisture and is easy to clean.

On the other hand, the main reception area requires a surface that’s resistant to heavy foot traffic. Further, it should be easy to walk on as this area has people traveling around on assistive devices like wheelchairs and walkers. Hence, comfort should be the top consideration.

Choosing safety flooring for seniors can be a challenging endeavor, especially considering the sea of options available today. Use the above-mentioned considerations to make a suitable choice.

Here’s a ready list of questions that can help you in this matter.

  • Is the flooring slip-resistant?
  • Does it offer cushioning underfoot? Will it absorb the impact of a fall?
  • How comfortable is it underfoot?
  • Is the surface easy to traverse on? Does it allow easy mobility for people using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs?
  • How easy is it to clean and maintain the surface?

Best and Worst Flooring Options for Seniors

Let’s look at the top flooring options available today and why they are perfect or not appropriate for the senior care facilities.

1. Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

A flooring option like a carpet that’s soft and comfortable underfoot is the best for seniors. Most commercial-grade carpets work best with power chairs and walkers. However, carpets aren’t devoid of shortcomings. Let’s look at some pros and cons of using wall-to-wall carpeting for senior care facilities.

Pros

  • Comfortable underfoot
  • Offers adequate cushioning and absorb shock in case of a fall
  • In colder regions, it offers a warm surface to move on

Cons

  • Accumulates dust and stains
  • Tough to clean and maintain
  • Harbors allergens and pathogens

2. Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring looks strikingly attractive and can take on the appearance of other materials like wood, stone, and concrete. They are incredibly durable and can stand routine wear.

Pros

  • It’s highly durable and cleverly mimics the look you want to achieve
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • It’s not water-resistant enough for wet areas like washrooms or pools
  • It needs to be continuously vacuumed to get rid of the grit that can damage its finish
  • Laminate floors are noisy underfoot
  • They are hard and unforgiving in case of an accident

3. Non-Slip Vinyl Surface

Vinyl has the reputation of being hard and waterproof. It takes on the feeling and texture of whatever you put beneath it. The waterproof nature of vinyl flooring protects the floor; however, the liquid tends to sit on top of the surface. If left unattended, this moisture either gets to the subfloor through the seams or increases the risk of people slipping.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Stain-resistant and easy to maintain
  • Vinyl planks provide a smooth surface for wheelchair users to move on

Cons

  • Looks and feels like plastic
  • Can be noisy
  • Newly installed vinyl surfaces emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Chemicals), dioxins, ethylene dichloride, and mercury that are known to be carcinogenic
  • In case of a fall, the landing isn’t soft. Vinyl surfaces often need an extra layer of cushioning to make them absorb the impact
  • It isn’t a ‘green’ flooring as vinyl production uses a lot of petroleum

4. Cork Flooring

Cork is comfortable and springy underfoot and easy on the joints even in case of a slip or a fall. It is also warmer and is highly appreciated on cold winter mornings. However, cork being soft is prone to scratches. Plus, it doesn’t work well with moisture.

Pros

  • Soft and comfortable underfoot
  • Offers a warm surface in cold-belt regions
  • Absorbs sound, making it ideal for high-traffic areas

Cons

  • Isn’t a durable flooring option
  • It absorbs moisture quickly unless you spend extra to seal it properly
  • Scratch and stain prone
  • Wheelchairs and walkers can make a dent or divot, permanently damaging the surface

5. Rubber Surfacing

Rubber surfaces prove to be the best choice for senior living community centers because of their high performance, resilience, cushioning properties, and longevity. Besides, owing to its insulating properties, rubber surfacing is known to reduce energy loss and offers amazing traction to seniors. This prevents slips and falls.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Skid-resistant and safe for seniors
  • Makes any space accessible to people using wheelchairs and other mobility aids
  • Comfortable and springy underfoot
  • Adequate cushioning properties in case of a fall
  • Moisture resistant
  • Inhospitable to pathogens and allergens
  • Easy to clean and maintain

Cons

  • The initial cost may seem high but the flooring pays for itself in the long term
  • Emits rubber-like odor when newly installed but it fades off within a day, depending on the ventilation in the area

What Next? 8 Questions to Ask Your Flooring Installer before Installing the New Flooring

Now that you have decided to undertake a surfacing project, it’s time to make sure you get the best value for your investment while keeping your elder residents safe. Make sure you ask these questions to your flooring contractor.

Is my subfloor in a good condition?

Technically speaking, the subfloor is a sheeting under your finished flooring. In some cases, there’s an underlayment, which is the layer between the subfloor and the finished surface.

More often than not, subfloors are neglected by inexperienced flooring contractors. However, subfloors play an important role in maintaining the integrity of the flooring. It also impacts the performance and longevity of the surface you’ll install.

Paying attention to the health of your subfloor is especially important for senior living facilities because subfloors prevent excessive movement, unequal heights, or squeaking within the floor system. They ensure that the floor remains firm underfoot and doesn’t bounce or sag under the weight of humans, wheelchairs, or walkers.

Subfloors with imperfections can cause bigger issues in the future. Before installing the new surface, check with your contractor whether it’s in top condition.

Does my flooring need an underlayment?

As mentioned earlier, an underlayment is a layer of cushioning between the subfloor and the finished layer. Depending on the type of flooring you choose, and underlayment can help absorb shock and sound and reduce wear with your flooring. It also smooths the imperfections in the subfloor and blocks the moisture damage caused by a few types of subfloors, especially concrete.

Your flooring installer is the best person to tell you whether or not your flooring requires an underlayment. For instance, a moisture-resistant flooring like poured-in-place rubber surfacing may not require an underlayment as the surface itself blocks moisture and offers adequate cushioning underfoot.

So, it’s wise to check with your installer whether you need this layer.

How long will the flooring installation take?

Flooring installations usually take time. This may impact the quality of life and the routine activities of your senior residents. Make sure you check the time taken to install the flooring. This will set the expectations right and allow you to make the necessary adjustments.

How will you take care of the drainage and expansion gaps?

Different types of flooring require different treatment and provisions. Some surfaces require expansion gaps when installing to prevent temperature changes from affecting them. For instance, laminate floors require ¼ inch gaps depending on the size of the room to allow for expansion in high-temperature areas. This prevents the surface from cracking or buckling.

Others need proper drainage for trouble-free draining. For instance, installing a safety rubber surfacing with provision for draining will prevent water locks. Only an experienced rubber surfacing installer can guide you in this matter.

Is the flooring non-allergenic?

This is an important question to ask, considering space will be occupied by seniors suffering from comorbid conditions like allergic asthma, contact dermatitis, and allergy to mold among others.

Therefore, it’s critical to choose a surface that’s easy to clean and does not harbor dust or pollen. Plus, the surface should be inhospitable to pathogenic bacteria and mold.

Is the flooring pet friendly?

Most seniors have pets for companionship. However, not all senior living facilities offer pet-friendly services. If yours is a pet-friendly senior living facility then you should consider installing a surface that’s easy on their paws.

Hard surfaces like porcelain and ceramic can be tough on paws and aren’t slip-resistant. This increases the risk of slips and falls, injuring their bones. Therefore, it’s advisable to use soft surfaces like rubber that offer cushioning and is easy to clean and durable.

What’s the warranty for the flooring?

Each type of flooring comes with a different warranty period. Hence, asking questions about the warranty will help you manage any problems that may arise in the future. Besides, it will allow you to take appropriate action in case of damages or unforeseen difficulties.

Will you give an estimate before commencing the work?

Flooring is not an everyday experience. As a customer, you may be stretching every space improvement dollar to the limit. Hence, before undertaking the flooring project, make sure to get an estimate from your installer.

The information will help you understand how much material is needed. Plus, when making an estimate, the installer will accurately measure the area, check the condition of the site, and propose a price based on the scope of work to meet your needs.

Rubcorp always provides estimates before starting a flooring project. Get in touch with us to find the right fit for your space.

Summing Up

As the age and life expectancy increases in the U.S, we have a growing demographic of American seniors who are retiring into senior living community centers. As this elderly generation prepares to live an independent life, they expect senior care facilities to support their lifestyle with modern amenities and conscious design choices that make life comfortable and safe.

Senior living facilities that understand these needs and expectations and invest in meeting them stand to win. Choosing the right flooring helps safeguard the health of aging Americans while improving the functionality of the space. We hope this guide on choosing an ideal flooring for senior living community centers will help you create a functional, durable, and enjoyable space for your members. If you have any questions about installing a safe surface, write at YourSurface@rubcorp.com. We are waiting to hear from you!

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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