Age-friendly features at new National Heart Centre building

PHOTO: Age-friendly features at new National Heart Centre building

SINGAPORE - The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) launched today its various age-friendly features that it plans to integrate into its new building design to better serve its increasing number of elderly patients.

Over the past decade, NHCS has seen a 44 per cent increase in first-time heart outpatients aged 65 and above. These patients form about one-third of the centre's patient load, NHCS said.

Aside from their medical conditions, elderly patients also suffer from physical weakness and reduced visual, hearing, and cognitive acuity.

By enhancing its age-friendliness, NHCS said it aims to create a safe, accessible and comfortable environment for the elderly.

For example, the new building to be operational in 2013 will have key clinical services arranged adjacent to each other so that patients do not need to travel to different floors for these services.

In addition, colours which can be easily spotted by the elderly, such as green and orange, will be used to highlight main patient service areas.

Signage will be kept simple, with large font sizes and contrasting colours used. Wall directories will be kept to a maximum height of 1.7 metres, taking into account the elderly's difficulty in lifting their heads.

In addition, floor finishes will avoid the use of dark colours, as the elderly tend to perceive dark spots on the ground as holes, and use non-slip vinyl as it is safer for elderly patients who tend to shuffle their feet while walking.

Such flooring is also compatible with wheelchairs, as it is less reflective and generates less noise. To prevent falls, there will be no steps or uneven ground surfaces at all patient areas.

Slip-resistant handrail supports will also be placed along corridors to help the elderly get around and seats in waiting areas will be fitted with arm rests which help makes getting up easier.

Notably, the whole building has been designed to be wheelchair accessible.

Each registration and payment counter at the NHCS new building will have a lower counter for wheelchair users and a higher one for standing caregivers.

NHCS noted that many elderly are unable to lift their arms above shoulder height, and those in wheelchairs are unable to reach for most light and door switches.

To meet their needs, motion sensor activated lights and automated doors will be widely used. Most wheelchair accessible washrooms will have semi-automatic sliding doors, as opposed to conventional swing doors, to provide ease of access.

During the design of the new building, NHCS arranged for the building architects to go through an age-friendly workshop to better empathise with the challenges faced by the elderly.

During the workshop, architects were required to put on dark tinted shades, acoustic ear muffs, latex gloves, and tight bandages on their elbows to simulate the deterioration of physical functions experienced by the elderly.

They were then asked to carry out simple tasks such as form filling and picking up dropped items.

NHCS said it has encouraged its staff, especially the front-liners, to attend the age-friendly workshop.

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