By the year 2020, approximately 12 million Americans will need long-term care, according to the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. With the rise in long-term care comes a demand for products and technologies to meet this market’s specific needs. In particular, when specifying the appropriate flooring for assisted living facilities, the issues to consider can be complex, especially when the occupants include an aging clientele.
Many of today’s assisted living facilities are designed to provide residents a stylish, home-like atmosphere, in both public and private spaces. Increasingly the feel is that of a high-end hotel or elegant home. Aside from the aesthetic concerns of design and pattern for the carpet, performance is a key consideration.
“An assisted living facility is like a country club with a medical twist, whose members have moved in,” explained Ramsey Jennings, president of The Jennings Group, Inc. and owner of eight properties. “So, the carpet we use in our facilities must be stylish yet tough. It’s what you don’t see about the carpet that makes it the right choice for this setting,” he said, in reference to its backing system.
As properties become more sophisticated to appeal to prosperous but aging baby boomers, facilities nationwide are choosing broadloom and modular carpet backed with Dow polyurethane technology. No matter how beautiful the carpet appears, it must also work well for the caregivers of a commercial setting. “It’s what’s under the carpet that really makes the difference,” said Jennings, who chose Milliken carpet tiles backed with Comfort Plus® using DOW™ ENHANCER™ Technology.
With a cushioned backing, polyurethane’s unique molecular structure allows it to absorb the pounding motion of foot traffic and support the heavy weight of furniture without bottoming out. ENHANCER™ Technology also reduces the carpet’s crushing and matting over time, even in high traffic areas like hallways and lobbies. Plus it recovers 90 percent or more of its thickness once heavy furniture is removed. This is an important benefit when the emphasis on a full social life for residents requires nearly constant rearranging of furniture. For example, a dining room may become a “performance hall” for guest entertainers, and the arts and crafts area serves double duty as an exercise space.
Another key factor to consider in extending carpet’s appearance is whether the backing includes a functional liquid barrier. This is especially beneficial in assisted living facilities where spills and odors are major concerns. The increased likelihood of spills, whether from food, drink or bodily fluids, requires certain characteristics in the carpet backing to avoid odor buildup. While proper maintenance is an essential component in dealing with prevention of odor, even best practices cannot compensate for deficiencies in flooring products. When carpet is backed with Dow polyurethane technology, polymers containing hydrophobic segments impede liquid and dirt from penetrating the subfloor, thereby reducing the occurrence of wick back staining and odors. Plus it allows for aggressive maintenance programs including hot water extraction.
A carpet’s backing system can also have an impact on the comfort and mobility of residents. Compared with hard surfaces, cushioned carpet backed with Dow polyurethane technology may reduce the chance of slips and falls. At the same time, it allows for wheeled mobility and reduces leg fatigue. “Our employees are on their feet for their entire shift so a cushioned backing system makes perfect sense,” added Jennings. Carpet backing made with ENHANCER™ Technology also serves as an effective noise reducer, helping create a quiet environment for residents, staff and visitors. It minimizes the sound of foot traffic, absorbs airborne noise and reduces sound transmission to surrounding rooms.
As the “aging in place” trend accelerates, so does wheelchair and walker use. Dow technology reduces the likelihood of carpet delamination, which can be a problem in intensive use situations like rolling traffic. Constant foot and rolling traffic can also cause carpet to pill and fuzz – a problem that is significantly reduced with DOW™ ENHANCER™ and ENFORCER™ Technology. All this adds up to carpet that ages well – even under heavy use situations.
“Our polyurethane backing technology helps commercial carpet withstand the test of time,” said Scott Lowrie, business manager for Dow Polyurethane Floor Coverings Group. “It’s the perfect choice for assisted living facilities where durability, comfort and style are critical for the carpet.”