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How we've mishandled art in assisted living

August 4, 2010
by Lisa Cini
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Artwork has been slowly changing in assisted living communities from paintings of children and puppies to a more sophisticated pallet of abstracts, graphics, landscapes, etc. But maybe we have gone too far in trying to make assisted living interiors relevant and hip. Creating a Crate & Barrel interior leaves little interest for the resident that will view the walls 12 hours a day for the next 2-7 years.

The issue is that artwork options have changed so little in the past five years that designers tend to stray too far from the likes of the resident in order to not be bored with the design packages they specify. Photography is also creeping in along with abstract art. Both can be confusing for assisted living residents as many have some form of dementia.

Typically, the best options are to mix in a blend of prints, canvas, and photography throughout the space that reflects different themes and adds to wayfinding while tying in local areas and items of importance to the residents.

Budgets don’t allow for much more than prints but technology has created the ability to custom color a print to the interior, adding elegance without increasing the price of a custom painting. Another tip to add visual interest is to vary frames, use double mats vs. single mat, and add brass name plates for historical photos.

Above all, keep in mind that these spaces are not like a hotel where artwork is viewed in short spurts. Residents will look at what you select for years to come. Choose wisely.

Interesting floor murals decorate an assisted living community in Iowa.
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Comments

Thanks for a great article Lisa. At Grand Image Ltd., as our business has shifted more focus to Health care, which includes senior living and assisted living, the points you make are timely for our sales team to keep in mind. We strive to offer a wide range of imagery and products to our design clients, and in the last 12 months we have made a huge effort to focus on this sector of the design market when recruiting artists and adding new imagery to our extensive line of prints and originals. We also launched a new line of Budget Editions, offered in standard sizes at lower price points to work within the budgets these projects often have. Kudos for addressing this under-served market!

We've come a long way since the 70's when I first started in health care and the progressive idea of art in long term care centered around Norman Rockwell prints. You raise an excellent point that there is a great distinction between artwork in a hotel and in a senior living facility. We need not look any further than our own homes, which contain a variety of artwork and ones that reflect our character and our tastes. Why should it be any different in an assisted living facility which are the homes of many seniors?

Thanks Lisa for reminding us of the importance of transforming a "facility" into a "home". I enjoyed your ideas and your creativity.

Lisa Cini

President and CEO

www.mosaicdesignstudio.com

Cini is president and CEO of Mosaic...