Care homes: A need to consider the design and transition to a new environment for the elderly

Posted: November 26th, 2013


  • Introduction:
  • Discussion:    
    • Transition to care home- change in environment (positive, negative)
    • City vs. rural location
    • Opportunities for physical activity/gardening           
    • Family -social isolation
    • Intergenerational activities
    • Restorative effect
  • Conclusion:    














Care homes: A need to consider the design and transition to a new environment for the elderly:

  • Introduction:

As seen in environmental psychology, the external environment plays an important role in people’s behavior, thoughts and even well-being. In environmental psychology, the environment encompasses the natural, social, learning and informational environments. Every person has a preferred environment in which his or her health and cognitive abilities develop. This is what is referred to as the preferred place. This includes built and natural environments around us. A person will always link certain feelings to a certain environment. These may be good or bad feelings and staying or even visiting such a place will enhance these feelings. The elderly are sensitive to the environment and changes to their preferred place may lead to undesirable outcomes (Ulrich 1984). Those living in care homes are especially sensitive to the environment around them. Therefore, there is the need to consider the design of the care homes in order to suit the needs of the elderly.

  • Discussion:    
    • Transition to care home- change in environment (positive, negative)

A person living in a place that conjures bad feelings may be helped by moving to a preferred place. The new place must have the right natural and social environment to suit the needs of the individual (Herzog & Barnes 1999). An elderly person living in a big house all alone may want to leave and move to a place with more people. This is a change in the social environment, which may be helpful to the person. If they are moved to a care home with a lively social environment, the person is likely to get better and regain physical strength. When combined with a serene and preferred natural environment, the care home proves to be a positive change in their lives. However, if an elderly person is moved from their home through coercion, the environment in the care home may not be helpful to their health (Hartig 1993). In fact, the person may exhibit negative progress. It is important to consider the preferences of the elderly person before taking them to a care home. This is mainly because they may develop mental health like depression if the care home environment is not suitable to their needs.

    • City vs. rural location

Apart from having effects on the health of the elderly, the care home environment can greatly influence their behavior. The environment has a big impact on a person’s moods and their reactions to different things (Bunce 1994). A person who is used to a serene and peaceful environment is likely to exhibit mood swings when taken to the busy city life. A care home located at the city centre may possess a non-conducive environment for the elderly. The noise and pollution related to the city may lead to flaring of tempers for a person who is known to be docile and quiet. Additionally, moving an elderly person from the city home to a serene care home can have a positive influence on their moods and behavior (Jackson 2003). As noted earlier, it is important to consider the specific needs of the elderly people before taking them to a care home or moving them from one home to the other.

    • Opportunities for physical activity/gardening           

Thirdly, care homes have a positive impact on the mental state of the elderly. In most cases, the elderly people are sensitive to small issues that may affect their stress levels leading to other medical complications. It is therefore advised that the elderly people stay in an environment that keeps their minds stable and away from stress (Purcell et al. 2001). Care homes located in the countryside where natural environment thrives are an appropriate place for the elderly. Here they are given the chance to relax and enjoy nature’s beauty. It is a common phenomenon to find the elderly in a care home waking up early just to see the sunrise. Such actions give them immense pleasure and satisfaction reducing the chances of elevated stress or depression (Neuman 2005). In this view, care homes have a positive effect to the elderly. Additionally, here the elderly are given time to exercise, thus improving their physical strength. By taking walks or even jogging, they are able to regain strength and enhance mobility. When undertaking such exercises, the elderly are accompanied by nurses who help them determine the right amount of strain for their bodies. This ensures that they are neither fatigued nor too dormant.

    • Family -social isolation

The care home environment can also have a negative effect for the elderly. This is especially so for persons who are forced to go to the care homes. The elderly often desire to be around the people they love. This is a period when they expect to be taken care of by their children. However, if the children decide to take them to a care home, the elderly may respond negatively. Whenever making a decision as to whether an elderly person should be taken to a care home, children must first consult with the concerned person. The research conducted by Liu shows that in most cases, children make the decision on whether their parents should or should not be taken to care homes (2009). Such decisions directly affect the elderly hence the importance of involving them. Additionally, it is important to understand that the elderly might say they are comfortable while they are not. In this view, the care home environment might not be the preferred environment for elderly people with children. It makes them feel lonely and unloved as they often conclude that their children do not love them. This is taken in consideration of the fact that the parents have taken care of the children since birth. Additionally, the elderly value their grandchildren and taking them to a care home creates an emotional gap between them and the grandchildren. The result of this separation is a negative response to the care home environment. Table two shows a positive impact in the family visiting patterns for people in care homes. When the family goes to visit the elderly frequently, the recovery process is enhanced. The percentages are also shown in graphs one and two.

    • Intergenerational activities

The natural environment presents a restorative feature that cannot be replaced. People who are exposed to a pure natural environment are likely to recover faster and maintain this state of well-being. Elderly people in care homes are likely to engage in activities like gardening, which promote their well-being (Myers1998). Generativity is a common trait among the elderly. They are always trying to have a positive impact on the generations to come. This makes them enjoy activities that are aimed at preserving the environment (Berto 2005). In the care homes, the therapists understand this and give them a chance to engage in these activities. This makes their staying at the care homes both restorative and enjoyable.

    • Restorative effect

It is important to understand that apart from the natural environments, built environments can also be a source of restoration. For the elderly, familiar environments like where a person was born can have a restorative effect on their health. Additionally, such places conjure good memories, which can be uplifting for the elderly. Care homes, which are built in a particular style, can be restorative for the elderly depending on personal tastes.

  • Conclusion:    

The normal environment that people live in may not be suitable for the elderly. One of the reasons for this is the kind of infrastructure that exists in the cities. Elderly people may not be able to move with the fast pace of city life sometimes being left behind when people are crossing roads. The common phenomenon of heavy traffic makes it hard for the elderly to live in cities (Fitzpatrick & LaGory 2000). For these and many other reasons, care homes become a part of elderly life where they can receive personalized care. In this view, the environment in the care home must be different from that which the elderly are trying to escape in the city. A natural environment is the most suitable as it impacts positively on the physical and mental health of the elderly.



Berto, R, 2005, “Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity”, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Vol. 25, pp. 249–259.

Bunce, MF, 1994, The countryside ideal: Anglo-American images of landscape. Routledge, New York.

Fitzpatrick, K & LaGory, M, 2000, Unhealthy Places: The Ecology of Risk in the Urban Landscape. Routledge, New York.

Hartig, T, 1993, “Nature experience in transactional perspective”, Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 25, pp.17–36.

Herzog, TR., & Barnes, GJ, 1999, “Tranquility and preference revisited”, Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol.19, pp.171–181.

Jackson LE, 2003, “The relationship of urban design to human health and condition”, Landscape and Urban Planning, vol. 64 no. 4, pp. 191-200.

Liu, LF 2009, “Family involvement in and satisfaction with long-term care facilities in Taiwan”, Asian J Gerontology, vol. 4, pp. 30-5.

Myers, MS, 1998, “Empowerment and community building through a gardening project”, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp.181–183.

Neuman, M, 2005, “The compact city fallacy”, Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 25, pp. 11–26.

Purcell, AT., Peron, E., & Berto, R, 2001, “Why do preferences different between scene types?” Environment and Behavior, vol. 33, pp.93–106.

Ulrich, RS 1984, “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery”, Science, vol.224, pp. 420–421.


Table 1:

People responsible for the decision of admission No. (%)
Children of the residents 147 (63.8)
Residents themselves 27 (11.7)
Spouse of the residents 14 (6.1)
Relatives/friends 18 (7.8)
Other family members 2 (0.9)
Professionals 4 (1.7)
Public funding 19 (8.2)
Total 231 (100)


Table 2

Visiting patterns No. (%)
Every day 92 (40.7)
Every other day 11 (4.9)
Once or twice a week 2 (0.9)
Once every 2 weeks 1 (0.4)
Once every month  2 (0.9)
Once every 2 months or more 1 (0.4)
Total* 226 (100)

* Total= 226 because of missing data.


Graph 1: This graph is a numerical explanation of who makes the decision on whether the elderly should be taken to care homes or not. The numbers are put in percentages to make the graph easier to understand and analyze.













Graph 2: This graph shows the visiting patterns of family members to the elderly people living in care homes. It is significance in this study as it shows how much attention people give to those living in care homes.




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