When choosing a commercial flooring material for a location that will be frequented by senior citizens there are a number of considerations that you should be aware of. These will be compounded by the function of the site that is being designed. By understanding the needs of elderly visitors, balanced against the requirements of the staff and facility, you will be able to choose a floor that will be safe, sanitary, and relatively easy to maintain.
Common Commercial Locations
Hospitals: Medical facilities often house elderly patients for prolonged periods of time, requiring flooring that can meet special needs. These floors have to be easy to clean and sanitize, while also being durable, and resistant to stains. If possible they should also be quiet, dampening the noise of feet and wheels so that patients can rest.
Nursing Homes: Long-term medical care facilities handle elderly patients who are in need of special assistance. Here the flooring has to be low maintenance and easy to clean, while also being attractive, and comfortable for the people living there.
Retirement Communities: The people who inhabit senior living communities are generally fairly active and able to get about but still have some of the frailties associated with age. In these places, you need flooring that is attractive and easy for the people living there to maintain themselves. Softer materials will also help to prevent injuries due to falling.
Safety: In any commercial location you have to consider liability issues that can come from people injuring themselves. With senior citizens, the chance of injury is greater, so more precautions have to be taken to prevent this. This starts by complying with all applicable state and federal regulations regarding accessibility throughout the space.
Softness: The harder the floor is, the more likely an accident will turn into an injury. The use of soft, yielding materials, on the other hand, can act as a cushion of safety, stretching across the entire space.
Traction: Avoid floors that are in any way slippery when choosing materials for commercial applications that will be used by senior citizens. In bathrooms, kitchens, and other spaces where water is used you may want to consider flooring options that can add additional traction to the surface.
Transitions: As people get older the gate of their walk changes, and slowly over time they tend to start shuffling their feet more. This can be particularly dangerous if the floor beneath them is uneven in any way, as they will be prone to trip on the dimensional dip. To avoid this, make sure that the flooring material is flat, and that the levels of your floors do not change across transitions from one room to another.
Related Safety Factors
Lighting: You should ensure that all spaces have adequate lighting and easy access to illumination at all times. Quickly change burnt out bulbs, and provide extra illumination wherever there are stairs.
Clutter: Keeping a space clean and free of clutter and debris is another important step you can take to prevent tripping injuries. Make sure that all dropped or discarded items are put away, and that spills are mopped up promptly and completely.
Flooring Maintenance Concerns
In environments where you will be caring for elderly patients who are disabled or have limited mobility, you want to choose flooring that is easy for your staff to keep clean. This is important for keeping maintenance time and expenditures down. It also makes it easier to disinfect the floor after an accident occurs, which can eliminate germs and lead to an overall healthier environment.
If you have a situation where the elderly residents are able to care for themselves, such as in a retirement community, then choosing low maintenance flooring options will cut down on the amount of effort they have to expend to keep their homes clean and sanitary. Some good options include vinyl, linoleum, rubber, and other resilient surface coverings.
Air Quality: Different types of flooring can also have an effect on the indoor air quality of a space. Some materials such as low-quality vinyl, as well as the adhesives used to install many floors, can off-gas small amounts of toxic Volatile Organic Chemicals, which can cause problems for elderly residents with breathing problems. Some carpets will also attract dust and small dirt particles which can then also end up in the air.
Best Commercial Flooring Options For Senior Citizens
Padded Vinyl: Resilient vinyl flooring is very easy to keep clean. Impervious to water penetration, vinyl flooring generally does not stain, and almost any cleansing solution can be used to disinfect its surface. At the same time, it can be combined with a padded underlayment layer, which will make the floor soft, and safe against all but the worst falls.
Padded Linoleum: Another resilient floor surface, linoleum is similar to vinyl, but is made from all natural linseed oil. This means that you don’t have any of the problems with toxic off-gassing that can occur with synthetic materials. Easy to clean, linoleum will be proof against most stains, although it can be damaged by large amounts of free-standing water.
Cork: A naturally soft, padded flooring material, cork can act as a kind of safety net, stretching across your commercial location with its gently yielding surface to protect against injuries that can occur from trips and falls. A commercial waxing treatment can also make the material impervious to water and stains, allowing you to easily keep it clean and sanitized.
Rubber: This is also a soft, safe, padded flooring choice that is naturally immune to water penetration and most staining agents. The possible drawback to rubber flooring is a slight smell, which is harmless to most people but can be irritating to a small number of individuals.