Åseral is a Norwegian inland municipality north-east of Kristiansand with a population of just under 1,000, equaling to 1.2 inhabitants per square kilometer. Late last year, a new assisted retirement home was completed after 11 years of planning and a building period of 22 months. It has become a Norwegian assisted senior home with 20 apartments and a hotel feeling.
“The aim was to create a care home without an institutional character,” says architect Siv Nordbø at ENO arkitekter AS in Kristiansand. “We started by analyzing the old building which was too large and unserviceable, and applied the principles of space planning. To accommodate all technical installations, the actual ceiling height construction is now 4 meters, while the visible operational ceiling height is only 2.5 meters in some corridors,” she explains.
Space planning is a complex process with many factors to consider and is frequently about compromise. In this case, the emphasis has been on lifestyle since elders are often forced to make the most dramatic lifestyle changes.
Focused on operating expenses
“Not only do our loved ones have to leave their familiar environments they used to, but they must also accept the fact that advancing age and/or increasing health needs necessitate this move. We wanted all residents to be on the same floor level. It would simplify operations, and we focused on operating expenses,” says Nordbø. “We have emphasized open spaces without unnecessary walls and doors that provide greater freedom of movement for people with reduced mobility. At the same time, however, this was a challenge for the safety regulations, and therefore we have installed invisible fire curtains in the ceilings, “she adds.
Project engineer Jan Oddvar Lineikro proudly introduced and guided us through the new care building in Åseral. Technical installations that control most things in the house, from temperature, sun-screening and sorting waste and dirty clothes to sensors that can warn of dementia’s unwanted absence.
A hotel feeling
Åseral assisted senior home with a gross area of 2910 square meters contains 8 apartments, 5 nursing home places, 2 emergency places and 5 separate units in a housing association adapted for demented residents. In addition, there is a day center for seniors, a hair salon, a physiotherapist studio as well as kitchen and several common and living rooms.
From the building there is a fantastic view over the village and the Øvrevatn lake and the outdoor area has a universal design including paths and seating areas. It is a sensory garden for the demented and maybe there will even be some hens. The nearest neighbors are an elementary school and kindergarten, which it turns out that the residents appreciate.
It strikes us immediately when we enter the building that It doesn’t smell like a residential institution at all. It’s like entering into a hotel. Most seniors wish to remain in the comfort of their own homes surrounded by memories and personal belongings. But when their care needs increase and the safety, assistance and social interaction that a well-planned senior center offer, they can feel more at peace with the idea of the move and ease into their new home.
“I believe the residents at Åseral care center appreciate the safety, warmth and friendship this good assisted living facility offers,” concludes architect Siv Nordbø.
Norwegian Assisted Senior Home with a Hotel Feeling, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Daily Scandinavian / Tor Kjolberg
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