by Amy Fahey
It is no secret there is a senior housing shortage in this country. Many developers opt to breathe new life into their existing facilities with extensive renovations. Of course, the most difficult part of these overhauls is to do so while people live in them, especially elderly folks.
The most effective way to accomplish the renovation of an occupied senior living facility is to understand, respect, and engage the residents throughout the planning and construction process.
At the start, determine the kinds of disabilities and/or mobility issues that residents are dealing with. Some may have navigation issues and move slowly; others may be frail or a bit disoriented. Find out about their cultural backgrounds and what languages they speak. Noise, dust, and disruption may make some residents anxious. Some may be uncomfortable with strangers working around them.
Become familiar with the facility’s operations and the daily flow of activity, including special events when more people may be on site than usual. When are routine deliveries and regular maintenance scheduled? Equipped with this valuable intel, we can plan work in ways that minimize impact on residents.
Install clear, large-print wayfinding signage, using multiple languages if necessary. Store equipment properly and see that the work areas are neat and clean at the end of each day.
Ensure that construction personnel are respectful and always give residents the right of way. Prohibit shouting, swearing, and smoking on the site. Plan materials and equipment deliveries, as well as very noisy work, to avoid busy times and areas.
Meeting residents personally is critical to establishing good will and assuring them that their safety and comfort will be your chief priority. Hold periodic meetings with them; listen closely and address their concerns. Provide plenty of advance notice of upcoming work. Post photos and the names of those in charge.
Make eye contact, greet people with a smile and be willing to answer questions. If you see the same people every day, take the time to learn their names and their pets’ names. Host occasional events for the residents and staff, such as pizza parties, to show your appreciation for their patience and to get to know them a little better.
Best Possible Outcome
At the end of a renovation process, it’s typical to focus on structural and aesthetic results. But in the best cases, there’s even more to celebrate: When an occupied renovation is done right, residents will not only have felt safe during construction, but also seen, heard, and cared for.
In fact, it’s possible to wrap up construction and receive notes from residents who are sorry to see you go (Yes, this has happened!). What more could we, or the building owner who hired us, ask for?
Amy Fahey is director of marketing at Colantonio Inc.