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Innovative Flooring to Meet the Ageing Population Challenge

The challenge

The ageing of the world population is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The combination of increasing longevity and declining fertility has resulted in a growing number of older people as a proportion of the total population in developed countries.

The number of people over the age of 60 is growing faster than any other age group. In the next 40 years, the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double worldwide, resulting in over 1.45 billion seniors by 2050.

Fatal falls

Age is a major risk factor for falls, and poses a global public health problem. Approximately 28-35% of people aged 65 and over fall each year, increasing to 32-42% for those over 70 years of age. The frequency of falls increases with age and degree of frailty.48

An estimated total 424,000 fatal falls occur each year, making this the second leading cause of unintentional injury death, after road traffic injuries.49 The death rate is highest among people over 60 years of age.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Another consequence of ageing is the increasing prevalence of dementia, and especially Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that 47 million people in the world are living with dementia, with the figure to double every 20 years, reaching 131 million by 2050.50 As dementia advances, symptoms include disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation and lack of self-care. The illness also creates behavioural issues – such as wandering and getting lost or confused – which require close monitoring and care by families and healthcare providers. As a result, many countries have responded to the growing prevalence of this disease by creating Alzheimer specialist units, reflecting the need to provide long-term care of people who can no longer live independently at home or in the care of relatives.

Long-term healthcare challenges

With these demographic changes, the healthcare sector must evolve to adapt to the needs of senior citizens. One of the challenges will be to provide the necessary facilities, such as retirement and nursing homes, to protect this vulnerable population and preserve their autonomy, as well as services adapted to their needs.

48 WHO Global report on falls prevention in older age. http://www.who.int/ entity/ageing/publications/Falls_prevention7March.pdf?ua=1

49 World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/ fs344/en/

50 World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia. https:// www.alz.co.uk/research/world-report-2015

The idea

As industry leaders in the healthcare flooring sector, Tarkett is particularly sensitive to issues of public health. Faced with the major challenges posed by this global demographic challenge, we have invested significant resources to developing solutions that improve the quality of life of seniors and their caregivers.

Floor design and colours for well-being

In the recent years, we conducted an extensive study among medical doctors and Alzheimer specialists to understand how flooring influences patient behaviour and mood in medical facilities (Tarkett Designing Alzheimer’s Facilities guide). The research identified the valuable role that flooring can play in creating a safe and comforting environment, key to improving patient well-being. It showed that ageing patients are more likely to feel safe and continue routine activities in a reassuring and familiar environment, surrounded by soothing designs and sound-reducing materials.

For example, designs such as wood, traditional hexagonal tiles or square tiles may have a familiar reference for the patient, reminding them of home or evoking childhood memories, helping to make them feel “at home”. By contrast, certain patterns – large stripes, repetitive geometric patterns, strongly contrasting colours – can confuse or disturb patients.

Colours have the same effect: some provide a sense of well-being while others can trigger undesired reactions such as stress and fear. The application of colour can also be used to promote safety and orientation. Patients with advanced dementia often experience disorientation, and flooring can provide reassuring spatial markers that help prevent them from getting lost. Strong colour-contrasting floor patterns can help define the perimeters of risk areas such as kitchens, stairways, balconies and utilities rooms. For example, having a dark line on the floor before a stairwell could deter a patient from entering and thus prevent a fall.

FloorInMotion™ Care: An intelligent and connected floor

But how can we move beyond applications of patterns and colours? How can a floor become an active participant in its environment? Can flooring be used to help senior citizens and residents of healthcare facilities maintain their autonomy, thrive and strengthen their confidence?

These were some of the guiding questions that led to the creation of FloorInMotion™ Care, an innovative service which transforms otherwise passive floors in aged-care facilities into a connected living space.

FloorInMotion™ Care is a flooring system that generates a signal whenever a patient moves or falls, and in the case of any unusual behaviour, sends an alert for assistance from care staff. It allows for caregivers to monitor a patient’s activity – including falls, room exits or intrusions, as well as daytime and night-time activities – from the convenience of a computer, a tablet or a smartphone. The system offers healthcare and senior residences a discrete, non-intrusive solution that respects the privacy of residents or patients thanks to the installation of sensors under the flooring.

The impact

If a person falls and remains on the ground for too long before help arrives, serious complications with tragic consequences could occur. FloorInMotion™ Care helps to address the pronounced health risk of falling, especially at night or in the bathroom, and provides a level of security and autonomy appreciated by patients, care staff and families alike.

FlooorinMotion transforms floors into a connected living space, with groundbreaking benefits for patients, their families, caregiving teams and healthcare institutions.

Benefits for patients and their families

– Patients appreciate this discreet and invisible system because it preserves their dignity and privacy, unlike more intrusive technologies such as video cameras or bracelets.

– The alarm connection, enabling fast action in the event of a fall or wandering, is reassuring to residents and their families.

– The system can also be used in the bathroom, a high-risk location for the elderly.

– The system is connected to automated equipment that provides comfort and safety. For example, when the patient gets up during the night, the floor detects the movement, triggering LED-equipped skirtings that light up for guidance. In addition, in the event of a fall, these LEDs will flash and the patient will be reassured knowing that an alarm has been triggered.

Benefits for caregiving teams

– Caregiving teams are relieved from the stress resulting from falls and wanderings, which are difficult to detect in real time. In the event of a fall, the teams can act quickly to help the patient, limiting the sometimes tragic impact of a fall.

– The solution provides healthcare professionals with relevant information about patients’ behaviour, information that until now was difficult to obtain. Thanks to this information (such as the number of times a patient gets up during the night, the level of activity by day versus by night, etc.), healthcare providers will proactively identify abnormal behaviours or situations.

– With the monitoring system, the healthcare team will better evaluate the effectiveness of medical treatment, adjust the medication protocol and proactively administer preventive care.

Benefits for medical and healthcare institutions

– Institutions are better equipped to fulfil their responsibility of ensuring residents’ safety, particularly in the event of a fall or wandering. The solution is always active, since it is directly connected to the existing alarm system.

– The equipment works for both bedrooms and bathrooms. It requires no electrical supply and does not cause any interference with existing electronic equipment.

– With the data stored and managed on a secured server, the monitoring system is available 24 hours a day on a smartphone, a tablet or a computer. The system comes with a user-friendly interface that does not require extensive training.

With more than 500 installations already completed by end 2016 in senior residences and healthcare facilities in Europe, we believe that this innovative service will continue to facilitate caregivers’ work, reassure family members, and ultimately, contribute to providing more security and comfort to elderly residents and patients.