Good Nursing Home Feng Shui
The floor plan of an assisted living facility with good feng shui encourages mingling, connection and easy access.
My husband and I are beginning the difficult but necessary process of moving our elderly parents into an assisted living facility. We are no longer able to safely and adequately maintain them in their home, even with 24/7 assistance. Aside from the obvious criteria of the facility being clean, safe, cheerful, and well-staffed with caring and certified professionals, what should we be looking for from a feng shui perspective?
My heart goes out to both you and your husband, as I’ve recently had to deal with this situation myself. I’m very attuned to the myriad of issues — financial, emotional, logistical, etc. — that may easily create a feeling of overwhelm for the caregivers.
Begin with the most important feng shui concept: safety and comfort come first. When an environment is safe and comfortable, beauty, harmony, and a pleasing décor will naturally follow, encouraging the beneficial flow of chi. Complicated, isolating and inaccessible living spaces are not conducive to safety and comfort.
Good feng shui and good design are really one and the same. The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and the mandated use of UD (Universal Design) principles support the building of senior living centers that are safe and comfortable and reflect and embrace our elders’ age appropriate needs. Some of these basic concepts are: flexibility in use, low physical effort, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, and tolerance for human error (fail safe features).
A supportive feng shui layout encourages the optimal and even flow of chi throughout the space. As in the natural world, everything is connected. The plan of an assisted living facility with good feng shui encourages mingling, connection and easy access, as well as a proper balance of resident and staff areas.
First, is the facility free of long, dark, and isolating corridors? Energy will either move too quickly (“shooting chi”) or get stuck in the overly yin and stagnant hallways. Some very innovative and successful new design techniques to encourage residents’ well being utilize a circular layout with private rooms off a well-lit pathway with skylights and full spectrum lighting. Others even include an indoor courtyard or atrium filled with trees and tasteful landscaping including benches, rock gardens, and gently curving stone pathways, giving residents a view of healing nature from their rooms or the larger public spaces. The changing seasons, soothing views of water and/or trees and thriving flowers and plants, as well as the uplifting sounds of birdsong brings nature indoors and provides residents the peaceful background necessary for optimal well being.
Other noteworthy good feng shui design trends include the elimination of the traditional nursing station and medicine carts. The former encouraged separation and a barrier between residents and staff. Floor plans in newer facilities have eliminated the workstation icon and replaced it with decentralized, small desks and work alcoves placed strategically throughout the area. This diminishes the institutional feeling for seniors who need a warm and homey environment. Likewise, medicine carts and storage areas are designed to look like furniture to help personalize the space.
In a resident’s room or private living area, locate the health sector of the space corresponding to the traditional feng shui bagua diagram. This area is found in middle left side of the room when entering from the door. Reinforce this area as a healing environment with touches of wood decor, plants and the colors blue and green. Easy to care for broad leaf plants are wonderful here as they cleanse and purify the air and bring in vital, natural living energy.
Open the window when possible to keep chi circulating, while also removing pathogens and other airborne bacteria and toxins. Check to be sure the space is free of dust, mold, mildew, and dampness. This is hugely important, as seniors’ immune systems are often impaired.
Other feng shui criteria to look for:
1. Have the bed (or the stove or desk) in the command position of the room, facing so the front door is visible. Align the bed on a diagonal but not directly facing the door, as the chi coming through the door may be too strong and disruptive.
2. Keep the space clutter-free, which help eliminates many tripping hazards and also feelings of overwhelm, despondency and depression. Clutter is a black hole that sucks vital energy from a space. It may be difficult to sort through a lifetime of possessions, but the result of this process is a meaningful space simply filled with quality, not quantity.
3. Consider using round furniture and non-glass tables to prevent injuries as well as reduce the “pointing arrows” effect of sharp corners.
4. Positive chi is encouraged by engagement of the five senses. As we age, touch becomes extremely important as other senses decline, especially for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There are many excellent fabric choices available in a wide variety of textures and weave. Mix and match with draperies, upholstery, bedding, towels, decorative pillows, etc., which will awaken the senses and provide a safe and reassuring connection with the space.
5. Our eyesight changes as we age. The elderly need stronger, more obvious color contrasts between furniture, walls, draperies, and floors to distinguish objects, maintain spatial understanding, and avoid falls. Healing colors such as blues, greens and yellow mimic the natural environment (known as biomimicry) and help elders to feel they are in a safe and comfortable place. In addition to color and texture, adequate, non-glare, full-spectrum lighting will go a long way to enhance diminishing eyesight as well as maintain a supportive yin-yang balance.
Karen Feldman is a certified feng shui practitioner and interior designer, and the owner since 1994 of Urban Eden, a full-service holistic interior design firm in Providence, RI. Karen helps her residential, commercial and corporate clients to co-create spaces that are beautiful, functional and in alignment with the best interests of their well being along with the planet’s. Send your questions to Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.karenfeldmanurbaneden.com.