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Interior design


Blue sky thinking: the power of biophilic design


David A. Navarrete, director of research initiatives and content development at virtual skylight maker Sky Factory, explains how biophilic design increases care home residents’ connectivity to the natural environment


One of the most therapeutic architectural features care home design can showcase today is a visual connection with open skies. Properties are discovering the documented benefits of transforming isolated interior spaces into relaxing, healing areas by incorporating illusory views to open skies.


Even when a property’s location, building design or cost precludes the opportunity to install a real skylight or window, evidence-based virtual skylights can achieve similar positive effects,


transforming enclosed interiors into social spaces that generate verifiable physiological and cognitive benefits for residents.


As the UK population ages, health and social care guidelines are placing more emphasis on care home resident wellbeing. As a result, owners of these environments are recognising the importance of leveraging their interior space to generate positive health outcomes. Given the restorative value of architectural illusions on the health and


wellbeing of older adults, which also enable staff to provide more effective and compassionate care, these often retrofitted biophilic design applications are reaching residential spaces beyond their healthcare design roots. Research-verified virtual skylights are particularly adept at providing multisensory stimuli to residents who may no longer be able to head outdoors independently. They also soothe those with developing memory care conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Equally valuable, these illusory portals transform otherwise enclosed and isolated areas in the property into pleasant and therapeutic spaces for group activities and social interaction, especially during dour weather or long winters.


New frontier


The space around us plays a profound role in behaviour, mental acuity, and health. Whether we feel connected to our surroundings or cut off from them, has a profound impact on our ability to think. A body of research in environmental psychology and biophilic design indicates that space-time interactions in human vision are asymmetrical; spatial cognition (experience of space) has a larger effect on temporal cognition (experience of time) than the other way around.1 When we perceive a small relative scale, i.e. our body, in the context of a much larger relative scale, i.e. the sky, the juxtaposition of contrasting scales creates an experience of wholeness, a perceptual experience conducive to reflection, contemplation, mental clarity, and emotional balance. When we experience vastness, time appears to slow down, even feeling infinite. In the experience of infinity, the mind finds much more than solace: it discovers its own inner nature and experiences deep rest. On the reverse, isolated interior spaces without a visual and spatial


May 2020 • www.thecarehomeenvironment.com 23


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