Amenities Create Home-Like Feel at New Veteran Homes

The State of Michigan and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency partnered with TowerPinkster and senior living design consultant SFCS to design two new veteran communities in Grand Rapids and Chesterfield Township. The communities were designed using the USDVA Small House Model guide. The guide focuses on a resident-centered care model that is driven by the desire to involve the resident and their family in decisions regarding care. It is an intentional shift away from a more medical-focused model of care that is often seen in older long-term care facilities.

Each new building consists of three major components: Households, Neighborhoods, and the Community Center. Two Households, made up of 16 residents each, come together to make up a single Neighborhood. The Community Center serves as the central hub for activities and services. The Michigan Veterans Home at Grand Rapids, and the Veterans Home at Chesterfield Township are focused on creating connections between residents, fostering relationships, providing a home-like setting, and providing top-level care to all residents. The buildings feature several unique amenities that support these goals.

SEE THE PROJECTS: Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and Veterans Home at Chesterfield Township.

A Focus on Privacy

Privacy and dignity-forward design were the most important aspects of the new veteran’s home projects. To that end, the buildings were designed with private rooms and bathrooms for every resident. Rooms are furnished to support the long-term care of each resident. This includes a long-term style bed, casework for storage of personal clothing and belongings, a desk area, and television for their personal use. The rooms are spacious enough to allow for additional furniture, like a sitting chair, that can be brought in by residents or provided by the facility.

Each private bathroom features a walk-in shower sink, space for linen storage, and a lighted mirror over the sink. Grab bars throughout the space offer an increased level of accessibility and promotes independence. The shower is large enough to allow for wheelchair accessibility.

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Each private room features a long-term care style bed, desk, TV, and cabinetry for personal items.
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Private resident bathrooms feature zero-barrier showers, grab bars throughout, cabinetry, and home-like finishes

Small Dining

Creating connections and building relationships between residents is a main goal of the Small House Model design concept. One of the main way people make connections with one another is over a shared meal. Just as in a traditional residential home, the kitchen is the heart of each House. It serves as a focal point and the main hub of activity for the Household. This intimate dining area is intended for the 16 residents of the household to use. In this space, the residents can enjoy the meals of the day or order something that suites them at that time. A resident can also order food to be prepared at a time that works best for them.

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Community Center

At the center of the campus sits the Community Center. The Community Center provides a “downtown” experience for residents and features a wide variety of services including a bistro, hair salon, multi-purpose room, medical suite including physical and occupational therapy, and administrative spaces. It is designed to be the heart of the building and to hum with activity throughout the day.

The bistro gives residents an additional option on where and what they might eat that day. Grab-and-go items are available and other hot meals can be made to order. Its location and amenities make it a popular choice for entertaining friends and family who come to visit. The large multi-purpose room serves as a community gathering area for all residents. It is often used for Sunday services, campus-wide entertainment, and other special presentations. The hair salon allows residents to get a haircut, shave, manicure, or pedicure within the comfort of the facility.

The campus’s medical services are also located in the Community Center. This includes large physical therapy and occupational therapy areas and flexible exam rooms that are utilized for a general doctor visit as well as dentistry procedures.

The Community Center is the place where residents from the entire community gather to socialize casually, participate in large group activities, and access care and support services. Placing these services outside of the Households and Neighborhoods encourages residents to move about the campus, creates opportunity for spontaneous connections, and adds to the feeling of “going out” that is often lost in long-term care facilities.

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While each room features a private bathroom, the spa provides a space where residents can be better assisted with bathing or is there for residents who simply prefers baths over showering. The spa features high-end finishes and creates a serene setting for bathing.

Each Neighborhood has its own spa. Each spa features restroom facilities, an accessible shower, and a large bathtub. The bathtub is designed for residents with accessibility challenges. It features a side entrance door and a lift to better help residents in wheelchairs.

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Climate Controlled Connections

Because both the Grand Rapids and Chesterfield Veterans Homes are in Michigan, the design team knew that the outdoor walking paths would not always be available to residents. To give residents additional options for walking, climate-controlled connectors link the Households and Community Center together and create opportunities for residents to easily explore and walk throughout the entire facility. These corridors are all on the same elevation, providing easy movement for wheelchair bound residents and do not have to worry about navigating stairs and ramps.

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Small Gathering Spaces

Each Household and Neighborhood features a variety of small gathering spaces including a living room, den, and multi-purpose room. The living room is a key gathering area for each House. It is used primarily for watching TV, reading, socializing, and relaxing by the fire. Natural light and accommodations for mobility challenged residents were key in the design of the space.

The den is a separate room designed for smaller group conversations, staff meetings, computer activities, or visiting with family members. It can also be used as a bedroom for overnight guests. The den features residential features and flexible furniture. Within each Neighborhood sits a mid-sized multi-purpose room. These rooms are used primarily for games, crafts, and other entertainment. Each of the small gathering areas serves a unique purpose but ultimately all help residents make connections and impact the overall feeling of the campus.

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Outdoor Spaces

Natural daylight and access to the outdoors was a key driver in this project. A large walking path circles the perimeter of the facility providing access to the outdoors and views. The path can be easily accessed from the Neighborhoods, the Community Center, and via various outdoor gathering areas. Every Household has access to their Neighborhood’s courtyard. As an extra layer of safety, courtyards, and the walking path feature perimeter fencing. This allows residents to access the outdoors without help or supervision.

The bistro features an outdoor seating area where residents can enjoy meals. Additionally, the physical therapy offices can access an outdoor walking path made of various surfaces for residents in rehabilitation.

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