Home, meet headspace: designing retirement developments with mental health in mind

From feng shui to the psychology of colour, creating homes that work for our headspace is a tried and tested idea. Indeed, as more people become aware of their own mental health, the homes we live in are working harder and harder to keep our minds healthy. And, at David Phillips, we believe there’s a huge opportunity to use those learnings where they can make a big impact: in retirement living developments.

Purpose built for security and privacy, these developments work hard to create communities, and are a vital resource in fighting the loneliness that residents can feel. So, as well as being a welcoming home to settle newcomers in, they act as a meeting point, social spot and activity centre for everybody who walks through the doors. But because the body of residents can be so diverse, with different wants, needs and preferences, knowing where to start with decor can feel overwhelming. Knowing how to cater to everybody’s mental health, even harder. That’s where we can help.

Our team of in-house designers are trained not just to create beautiful homes, but to develop spaces that help foster connection, allowing residents to really enjoy life where they are, for as long as possible. From design and project management to delivery and installation, we’re experts at getting it right. Read on for our tips on creating retirement developments that help residents live life to the fullest.

Let there be light

It’s true, there’s nothing quite like natural light to lift the mood. So think big windows to flood rooms in sunshine, and keep large light-blocking furniture, or walls, to a minimum. Open-plan design allows light to radiate through spaces, and adding lots of seating to these spots will encourage residents and visitors to sit in them for longer, with all that lovely light boosting happiness and reducing depression.

Retirement developments with mental health in mind

A little off-colour

Most people have colours that they love and colours they don’t, but according to specialists in the field, how our brains respond to colour can have a powerful effect on our metabolism, nervous system and sleep. It’s all to do with the chemicals released when light enters our eyes, and different tones will have different positive and negative effects, so it’s worth bearing in mind as you design.

Green: green is said to foster balance and rest.

Purple: the colour of spiritual awareness and wisdom, purple encourages introspection, so can be great where residents need space to think.

Yellow: a burst of sunshine, yellow is thought to promote self-esteem and happiness, so is perfect for social spaces.

Pink: known for its caring and compassionate feel.

Blue: light blue is known to be calm and friendly, while dark blue builds focus and concentration, so choose your tone to reflect the feeling you want for your residents.

White: although white is often the first choice for clarity and a hygienic finish.

Retirement developments with mental health in mind

Art for all

We all know how subjective art is. What one person loves, another might loathe, so it can feel daunting to hang pieces in a home that needs to work for so many. But moments spent in front of a painting have been proven to positively impact  people’s moods, reducing stress and anxiety.

It also encourages connection, by initiating conversations, so it’s great to hang art around spaces where people will gather. Choose unchallenging styles that somebody could sit and lose themselves in, pieces that promote storytelling, or scenes residents might relate to. Art gives the viewer a moment to get whatever they need from it, whether that’s a quiet moment of reflection or a debate about whether or not it’s good.

Retirement developments with mental health in mind

Just add plants

The technical term is biophilic design – using plants to help connect our inside life to the natural world outside. Done right, it’s said to elevate mood, reduce stress and even improve memory, so it makes perfect sense to employ it in retirement developments. Use plants to bring the feeling of nature inside and draw the eye outside – there’s nothing quite like being surrounded by greenery to inspire a little trip out to get some fresh air.

If you’re working with spaces in cities, use them to help purify the air and add a comforting touch. They’re even great absorbers of sound, so can make for good room dividers to stop noise reverberating around open spaces. All that, and watching them grow and change with the seasons can act as an inspiring touchpoint in residents’ days.

Retirement developments with mental health in mind