Senior Living Update: One size does not fit all in the senior care market - Feb 2017

By Ruth Simon McRae

Much has been said about the aging of the Baby Boomer-and subsequent-populations. We don’t have to look to the Silver Tsunami of 2030; the growth in demand for senior care is upon us now. The real questions are where and how people will want to live as they age, and what will they be able to afford. 

Senior living encompasses the three primary levels of senior care: independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. CCRCs (continuing care retirement communities) are a combination of all three care levels, and, in addition, there is memory care, which is now widely considered as a separate category. Aging in place at home and in other housing types, such as multi-family and multi-generational communities, are included in the sector, as well as day facilities and rehabilitation centers. In the future, the senior care industry will need to grapple with the strength of the aging-in-place trend, as residents may want to live out their lives while continuing to stay in their homes or independent living apartments.

Affordability is going to be a key issue going forward, and must be factored into the discussion. Magazines feature beautiful top-dollar facilities. Of necessity, research is currently being done on ways to create senior communities with a lower price tag. One option being considered is an a la carte pricing model, where the living space would be a basic cost, with additional services provided by partner suppliers.

Senior living is a market that overlaps with many other markets, such as residential, hospitality and healthcare; it has many aspects in common with each. Connected by function and feel, these three markets all influence the design of senior living spaces. This is a big shift in terms of the influence on interior finishes from years ago, when corporate market design influenced all other segments. Flooring industry design leader David Oakey sees a blurring of the lines in all segments-residential, hospitality, office, healthcare and senior living. Residential and hospitality are having the biggest impact on office and healthcare. 

Retirement communities are made up of a huge variety of spaces and functions. Recently, investment has been going into amenities, including different types of dining and cafe situations and fitness/wellness areas. Clearly there is no “one size fits all” flooring that can meet all these needs.

TRENDS
Senior living spaces must be designed to be adaptable to change in order to accommodate different activities and facility needs. As the functions of various areas change to accommodate resident needs, the flooring must have flexible properties as well. 

“Bringing the outdoors in” and biophilic design are not new trends, yet they have become effectively a universal influence on healthcare and senior living design. One way this may be expressed from an architectural perspective is in the integration of more windows in both rooms and corridors. 

There continues to be growing interest in visual or actual texture in all finishes to bring the warmth of home into senior residences. Some of this is in reaction to the expanded use of technology, which is increasingly being tasked to both monitor care and help connect residents to the outer world. According to Oakey, “Technology is a given; it will be used in senior living to help people move through a space. Yet there is a return to tactile feel. There needs to be a balance of technology and the ability to interact with things.” 

Regional preferences drive architecture and interior design in senior living. “Senior living is hyper local,” says David Gerson, vice president of marketing for Interface. “The desire is to recreate home and feel like the local environment. This is the polar opposite of branding.” Branding issues are not key drivers of senior living design.

MANUFACTURERS
To get a sense of product development programs, it’s worth taking a look at a handful of key manufacturers serving the senior living market. Each firm has a different approach to the market based on its perspective, product strategy and current technology. 

As the senior living market evolves, flooring companies continue to conduct deep research as part of their product development process. Internal design teams are holding their own senior living design councils; some include primarily architects and designers as council participants, while others also have experts such as researchers and academics.

Naturally, products must have certain properties in order to function in senior living. Some key attributes are acoustical comfort, roller mobility to both carts and walking devices, safety-such as slip fall resistance and impact absorption-moisture barriers and level transitions. Less tangible attributes, such as providing a feeling of warmth and home, are also important.

There is an ebb and flow of the production development and introduction cycle for senior living. A company that develops distinct products for the senior living market may alternate development of a public space product collection with a group of products for resident rooms. This is particularly true of carpet companies that have residential resources. 

Shaw Industries has recognized that flooring for senior living, multifamily housing and student housing have much in common, and has combined these end-uses into one functional market under the umbrella of “Specified Living.” 

Shaw’s Patcraft commercial flooring brand has long had a major focus on the senior living market, with a program of ongoing research and innovation. Last September, it held the Perforum Symposium, hosting a mini conference with senior living designers, academics and trade publication representatives. Although public space is primarily carpet, Patcraft is seeing a huge growth in LVT wood-look plank in public spaces. It is also seeing growth of carpet tile. Clearly, a range of product types is needed in order to address this market. 

Introduced at the end of 2015, Patcraft’s Life & Style Collection of coordinating tile and broadloom carpet was developed specifically for the senior living market. The tiles include Urban Garden, a lovely floral that gives the illusion of a high-low texture, and its coordinate patterns, Leaflet and Prose. Broadloom also scales from small to large with Vivant, a cracked ice pattern; Full Bloom, a medium flower set over a grid similar to Vivant; and Bohemia, a flowing pattern with stylized lace motifs connected with a similar abstracted grid. The broadloom styles have large repeats appropriate for public space.

Following this introduction of public space carpet, Patcraft moved its attention to living spaces. The new collection, Inside Stories, combines a variety of textures, colors, constructions and price points for resident rooms. Products are residentially inspired, yet with commercial constructions, a category coined as “resimercial.” Targeted to all three segments of Specified Living, the first volume of Inside Stories is made up of three products. Socrates is a multilevel loop mixing heather yarns with yarns that have a twisted look, allowing for crisp, distinct color accents. Other products are Abode, a solid color cut pile, and Respite, a barberpole cut pile product. Inside Stories–Chapter 1 was launched early last month.

Inside Stories–Chapter 2 will be introduced late in the first quarter. It is a step up in terms of pattern, with loop textures, cut/loops patterns and a striped PCU (precision cut uncut). Two of the patterns have luster contrast with a bright loop yarn adding a bit of sparkle and life on the floor. 

Timber Grove is Patcraft’s newest LVT introduction, with a wood visual and an expanded colorline. Introduced in mid 2016, Timber Grove is offered in three thicknesses, making it appropriate for both rooms and public spaces. Timber Grove’s palette has 16 colors, including eight grey-derivatives. New colors for senior living tend to be in the warm grey spectrum, balancing the warm wood tones already in the market. Timber Grove’s warmer greys are very neutral and do not relate to specific wood colors. 

Mixed Materials, a category-busting collection that includes both carpet and resilient styles, has recently been broadened in format to include a 9”x36” plank along with the existing square and facet shapes. The multiple formats make Mixed Materials a good tool for designers. Ridley Kinsey, director of healthcare markets for Patcraft, has seen many interesting floor configurations, including new herringbone layouts created using facet shapes installed straight out of the box.

Interface is one of the largest producers of modular carpet worldwide. Although modular carpet may have become well established in other market segments, it is experiencing rapid growth in the senior living market. Tile is a clearly a problem-solving surface for senior living spaces, with its flexibility and performance characteristics. 

Gerson notes that Interface’s most popular products for senior living are the ones they designed for the hospitality segment. This hospitality influence is coming specifically from boutique hotel design; it has a bespoke feel with a handcrafted aesthetic. The products offer a rich vocabulary of textures to create a welcoming experience in public spaces. 

Evidence-based design in the world of healthcare is fundamental; the connection between nature and healing has clearly been established. Interface has been a leader in the advancement and use of biophilic design, with its seemingly universal influence on healthcare and senior living architecture, interior and exterior. 

Interface is seeing senior facilities moving away from neutral patterns on the floor, with designers mixing patterns and textures to create the type of organic flow you see throughout nature. Urban Retreat, Interface’s number one selling collection worldwide, is an expression of biophilic design. It uses color and pattern the way it occurs in nature, with both lush and rugged textures, in warm and cool mixtures and subtle, organic color flow.

Interface is also seeing more mixed materials than ever before, with multiple products used within one facility, sometimes multiple carpet styles, at times soft and hard surface flooring combined. The modularity inherent in Interface products offers both flooring design and functional properties. 

One major development at Interface is the introduction of an LVT program. In development and production over the last few years, Level Set will be formally launched this quarter. Level Set covers the basics, with textured wood grains and stones in tile and plank formats. Later in 2017, Interface plans to introduce the next generation of resilient flooring.

Taking an integrated approach with carpet tile, the same module sizes are used for both carpet tile and the new resilient products to create an integrated floor plate. One design usage might be a carpet “rug” inset into an LVT plank field. 

Interface’s LVT backing has a high acoustic rating and the feel of condensed cushion. The flooring offers simplicity in installation and requires no transition strips. The product is 100% closed loop recyclable into Interface’s GlasBac RE.

Gerflor USA addresses each level of care in the senior living market with the appropriate solution from its full portfolio, with products ranging from residential resilient all the way up in acuity to skilled nursing.

Jim Bistolas, Gerflor USA’s national healthcare segment director, sees the independent living market aligned with the hospitality market. This year, Gerflor introduced a product specifically for residential areas, Creation Living, a 2mm thick, low-traffic luxury vinyl tile available in both plank and tile format. A key feature of Creation Living is its realistic grained embossing. The comprehensive collection of 24 wood and stone designs is offered with a 100% recycled content backing and Gerflor’s Pur wax-free surface treatment. 

Creation Living coordinates with a current Gerflor LVT product, Creation, which contains 60 modern and natural wood, stone and textile designs with a 28 mil wearlayer. Having both products allows Gerflor to furnish an entire facility. 

Taralay is a sheet vinyl flooring offered with both compact-which is traditional for the U.S. market-and comfort backing. The comfort backing reduces leg fatigue for staff, provides shock absorption and limits risk from slip and fall incidents. Taralay has a wide range of visuals that include traditional woods and other natural material looks, along with some fun small-scale abstract patterns. Taralay is also appropriate for skilled nursing. For assisted living situations, senior living facilities may go with Creation LVT, for common areas such as community and activity rooms as well as dining areas, while using Taralay with comfort back in resident rooms.

On the sheet vinyl side, Gerflor’s Mipolam-the original homogenous sheet vinyl that was first introduced in 1937-offers solutions that work for both acute care and senior living. One standout in the series is Mipolam Symbioz, which uses a 100% bio-based plasticizer and is made of 75% sustainable or renewable raw materials. The Mipolam group of products offers a range of visuals, including subtle tone on tone and more distinct chip looks.

Senior living spaces are frequently reconfigured. Gerflor has addressed this need with Creation Clic, a vertically interlocking LVT. Creation Clic makes changing flooring both easier and quieter, as installation may be done with a roller instead of a mallet. Creation Clic is available in a palette of 15 wood and mineral visuals.

Healthcare and senior living have always been key markets for Mannington Commercial. With a broad portfolio of broadloom and carpet tiles, LVT, sheet vinyl and more, the company is able to meet just about any flooring need in this arena.

On the carpet side, Mannington has been focusing on an update of its Classics collection, a group of three botanical patterns: a simple leaf, a stylized ginkgo and a finely drawn flower with a larger scale yet lighter feel. The Classics collection has done well for Mannington, yet the company was ready for fresh relevant patterns and updated colors.

The new collection, Poetics, includes a broad array of 20 patterns. Collection patterns cover a full range of looks, including abstract, botanical, geometric, deco and medallion types. The patterns are chameleon-like, not literal, with stylized motifs. Each design type is expressed in at least three scales. At the same time, the semi-abstraction allows transitions from one type of design to another. 

Two standout patterns are Bradbury, a medium botanical with pod-like floral motifs, and Atterbury, a geometric damask. Montgomery and Camus are coordinate products, offering striated and organic textures that work with all designs. Products in the Poetics collection have a textured cut and loop construction that creates the look of a patterned velvet textile. 

Mannington’s color range for senior living colors is influenced by residential, with a trend toward lighter, cleaner colors, including light grey and warm taupe, often with pops of pure color. Poetics has a palette of 16 colors, featuring nine neutral base colors and subtle contrasting accents, many of which are pulled from the complex, subtle space-dyed background. Some of the neutral colors are tonal, while others offer warm/cool mixtures. Several colorations feature hues such as celery and sage green or a blue as a pattern element against the neutrals. One striking combination reverses the color format with mid-grey accents against a variegated rust tone field. 

Mannington is also seeing strong growth of LVT in the senior living market. Kathy Griffel, director of healthcare for Mannington Commercial, says, “Clients who were 100% carpet now have at least some resilient flooring in their facilities. And some have transitioned completely to LVT. On the aesthetic side, wood looks predominate, even in the corridors. This is the hospitality influence; designers are trying to make a space warm and inviting.”

Mannington also has flexibility in the LVT area, something that is unique in the resilient market. Within the Amtico line, products may be customized in three ways, with size, edge detail and embossing. 

The company has been actively creating new LVT products for the senior living markets as well, with a huge number of LVT updates and product introductions. In the past 12 months Mannington has introduced new visuals in the Amtico Signature, Spacia and Nature’s Path collections. These collections include wood, stone and abstract looks.

Introduced in mid 2016, Mannington Select is a revision of Nature’s Path, with updated woods such as maple and cherry, and the inclusion of walnut and other grey-based wood type visuals. Select will be featured at the Environments for Aging conference in late February. It is available in 24 plank colors and an additional 24 tones in tile format.

Forbo holds a special place in the flooring industry due to its portfolio of distinct and varied materials. In senior living, Forbo leads with Flotex, a product system made up of a densely flocked surface of nylon 6,6 fibers that are anchored firmly into a solid vinyl reinforced base. Its value proposition to designers and operators is that it creates the softness and home-like feeling of textiles, yet is still fully waterproof.

Flotex combines many properties of carpet, such as acoustical comfort and a home-like feeling, with the performance attributes of resilient. One of its key features is its imperviousness to water. In a situation where residents have incontinence issues, operators can easily clean the flooring to remove odors. Other important properties include wet and dry slip resistance, roller mobility, smooth seams (no seam raveling or zippering as in carpet) and no transition strips. 

Jamie Thorn, national sales manager for Forbo, says projects for higher acuity and memory care levels will play a bigger role going forward. This is borne out by the research; people are entering senior living in their mid-80s or higher, and it is clear that demographically this age group will swell. At the same time, Thorn believes that as the ranks of seniors increase we will see a preference for aging in place. Flotex can offer a great solution for retrofitting homes and apartments to support in-home care.

Journeys, a softly colored, all-over mid-scale leaf pattern, is a product that creates a feeling of home along with a subtle hospitality aesthetic. The pattern is finely drawn, with more detail than is possible in a tufted design. Journeys will be expanded to include additional patterns in the near future.

Flotex is offered in a wide variety of visuals. In addition to Journeys, collections include linear carpet-like visuals, wood and abstracted wood looks, and crisp graphic digital prints. Forbo has been able to achieve these varied aesthetics in Flotex due to its true digital printing, a technology with much higher resolution than dye injection printing. 

In terms of new developments, Forbo will launch Flotex Planks Wood in six colors during the first quarter of this year. Later in the year, the palette will be expanded to include several on-trend colors for the U.S. market, including a European Whitewood. Forbo’s LVT, Flotex Plank and Flotex sheet products are designed as a coordinated system. 

Ecore offers a unique technology for the commercial market that has excellent application into the healthcare and senior living segments. The Tru collection of styles was developed in order to meet the specific needs of commercial environments, including healthcare, senior living, hospitality and education facilities. Leveraging Ecore’s patented Itstru technology, Tru products feature a sheet vinyl or rubber surface fusion bonded to a 97% post-consumer recycled rubber backing. Tru products are 6’ wide with heat-welded seams.

Roller mobility, moisture resistance, safety and maintenance issues are key factors in the selection of resilient flooring. Slip and fall is the entry level for safety, though another key issue is absorption of impact to prevent injury. Tru flooring is engineered to absorb force, especially on heel strikes with seniors, mitigating falls due to force reduction. There is no ASTM standard to measure this impact, and Ecore has petitioned ASTM to create a test that captures the absorption of force on impact. Ecore is currently using test methods that are relevant to sports surfaces and other sports test measurements in order to quantify force absorption.

There has been a huge expansion of the three individual products under the Tru umbrella this year. Six new colors are being added to Forest Rx, a wood visual, bringing in more greys and less literal woods with sophisticated, contemporary looks. 

Terrain Rx is being expanded into two product groupings. In one, the color palette of the linen-look Terrain Rx will shift to four warm tones and four cool colors, in modulated values, with one of the warm neutrals favoring green tones and one of the cool greys leaning toward blue. The other is a new and as of yet unnamed product, with a non-planked wood design that gives the warmth and feeling of a natural material without being literal. 

The product bridges the gap between a more traditional wood visual and a more contemporary all-over texture. The product will be introduced by the end of this quarter. This is in keeping with the overall interest in softer, more abstracted patterning on the floor. Bo Barber, vice president of sales and marketing for Ecore, has observed that “designers want to use overtly natural finishes, such as wood or linen, on vertical surfaces, and then want coordinated, yet less literal product for the floor.”

Rubber is also an important face material for Ecore, which recently added Galaxy Rx to the Tru collection. Galaxy has a sheet rubber face fusion bonded to the Itstru recycled rubber backing. Its palette is a set of sophisticated neutrals expanded by a rich azure blue and a nature-inspired green. 

There is loose color coordination between Galaxy Rx, Terrain extension products and Forest Rx, as well as color relationships within the full product line, including products such as Polyflor’s Pearlazzo Pur with its pearlescent accent colors. 

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