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ogilvy on wellness

Designing Somatic Spaces For Healthy Living Experiences

One of the key themes to emerge from Ogilvy’s global Wellness Movement report was that of somatic spaces; the idea that the places where we live and work can be redesigned to better suit our “ape brain” and foster a greater sense of wellbeing.

Michael Bol is an architect at the firm Molenaar & Bol & Van Dillen, and creator of the Hogeweyk. Commonly described as a “dementia village,” Bol prefers to call it “the Dutch village where everyone happens to have dementia.” The typical nursing home can be smelly, with no variation in climate (aggravating our ape brain, which is fine-tuned for seasons) and it can lead to residents becoming institutionalised and isolated, with little independence or social interaction.

The Hogeweyk was a response to the challenge of how to design a nursing home that didn’t simply echo the aesthetic and function of a hospital, but instead focused on hospitality. It more closely resembles a village or campus than a traditional clinical environment, with 160 residents living together in groups of up to 7, across 23 houses.

Bol subscribes to Machteld Huber’s definition of wellness, as “the ability to adapt and take control of your own life in the area of physical, emotional and social challenges.” As such, the Hogeweyk was designed with six key criteria for quality of life: favourable surroundings, life’s pleasures, employees and volunteers, health, organisation, and lifestyle. By centring the pastoral wants and needs of the residents rather than the clinical, the architects were able to create a safe and recognisable environment which significantly reduced emotional stress. It is Bol’s hope that these villages will come to be seen as the norm, and will become increasingly integrated into society.

The impact of the wellness movement is evident throughout the world of healthcare. We believe good healthcare is people-centric; we look at patients, family, and staff,”says Werner Satter, Business Leader of Healthcare Experience Solutions (EMEA/ASIA) at Philips. “

It’s important to remember that patients are consumers, and they are speaking up and becoming increasingly demanding. Healthcare markets are also opening up more than ever before; experience differentiation is needed as hospitals start competing with each other. A shortage in nursing staff is leading to a global decline in quality of care. And with an ageing population and rise in chronic conditions, healthcare is moving from a treatment only focus, to a care service provider model, which means “ambient experience” design is crucial, says Satter.

For example, views of nature and plants have been shown to increase patients’ tolerance to pain, reducing the need for medication, and helping in recovery from stress and mental fatigue. Similarly, appropriate lighting, noise management and single patient rooms facilitate better patient care and afford greater therapeutic benefits, such as reducing hospital-acquired infections and speeding recovery. In short, a purposefully designed environment can reduce anxiety, which in turn speeds up recovery; the power of the mind should not be underestimated. There is increasing evidence of psychological aspects of  healthcare positively influencing patient outcomes.

“A professional healthcare environment should be psychologically supportive, instilling a sense of wellbeing,” says Satter.

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