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Building a senior friendly hospital

Toronto, June 22, 2015

By Kate Manicom

A rendering of the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower lobby
A rendering of the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower lobby, which includes natural light, ample handrails and wide corridors as part of the designs. (Rendering by NORR)

As St. Michael’s Hospital builds its new Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower and renovates large amounts of existing hospital space, it is also taking the opportunity to meet the unique needs of elderly patients and visitors.

St. Michael’s redevelopment project – also known as St. Michael’s 3.0 – will incorporate best practices of senior friendly design based on the Code Plus Senior Friendly Design standards. These evidence-based guidelines take into consideration how well a physical environment is equipped to address the developmental needs of older adults and promote safety, independence and functional well-being for older patients and visitors. However, these improvements will benefit more than just seniors.

“Many of the changes will enhance the comfort and experience of all patients and visitors to the hospital,” said Susan Blacker, co-chair of the Senior Friendly Hospital Strategy. “And they will help our staff, physicians and volunteers to provide the best possible care.”

An important feature being incorporated into the designs is rubber flooring, which has several benefits. First, it is matte. When floors are shiny they can appear to some, particularly those with dementia, as being wet, causing confusion. Second, they are non-slip, which helps to prevent falls for patients and staff. Lastly, they reduce noise and echoes, creating a quieter and calmer environment.

All inpatient rooms in the new tower will have natural light, which has been shown to promote overall health and to reduce falls. Natural light in the tower’s 10-storey Element Financial Atrium will improve visibility when entering and exiting the building. Maintaining a gradual change in lighting is important in helping to reduce confusion, disorientation and problems with depth perception.

  Implementing simple changes can improve hospital environments for seniors
  • Install seating in long hallways and next to elevators
  • Use a matte, non-glare finish on floors
  • Paint handrails a colour that contrasts with floors and walls
  • Ensure signage is uncluttered and language is consistent; avoid technical or medical language and jargon

The historic Bond Lobby will be renovated to include an elevator, allowing everyone to use that entrance.

St. Michael’s 3.0 will also see improvements in areas of the hospital that see high levels of older patients, such as cardiology and orthopedic inpatient units. While the current orthopedic inpatient unit, situated on 4 Bond, has narrow hallways that are obstructed by equipment, its future home on the ninth floor of the new tower will be more spacious.

“Wider corridors, larger patient rooms and fully accessible washrooms will help all orthopedics patients recovering from hip, knee, spine, shoulder and ankle operations to navigate the hospital,” said Valerie Audette, the unit’s clinical leader/manager. “The unit will also have bigger storage areas, reducing clutter in the hallways and helping patients and staff to get around.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.