Senior Living Projects
By Luisa Nunez
The Machida Royal Care Facility, a senior living center located just outside of Tokyo is the first of its kind in Japan to incorporate what is known as the Eden Principle into their health care system. The principle, according to Lea von Kaenel, Principle in Charge of Senior Living Projects Market Group at Graeber, Simmons, and Cowan, is an alternative theory and model of care giving for senior living and health care facilities in general. As stated by Ms. Von Kaenel, one of the main tenets of this philosophy uses pets as positive cognitive therapy elements for seniors and ailing individuals.
A major focal element for the interior design in the commons area of this particular assisted living facility is a large birdcage designed like a pagoda with a dome overhead that is faux-painted to look like the sky. A sitting area surrounds this particular aviary. The birds of choice are finches, which, aside from being beautiful to observe, also have lovely singing voices that resonate marvelously given the aviary’s design. The aviary has been designed to incorporate a central nesting pole that has various baskets on it where the birds come to nest and lay their eggs. According to Ms. Von Kaenel, the residents enjoy picking out certain baskets that they are fond of and often rush down to the aviary on a daily basis to keep tabs on its inhabitants.
The aviary spans about twelve feet in diameter and is nine feet tall. Asked if there were any special design options that needed to be considered when working on a project such as this, Ms Von Kaenel reprћlies, “When you design an aviary such as this one, you have to make sure that it is easy to maintain and keep clean. You also want to be sure that the temperature is amiable to sustain happy and healthy birds.” Some other technical considerations, according to Ms. Von Kaenel include proper lighting and positive airflow systems.
Ms. Von Kaenel admits to being a firm believer in animal assisted therapy and has witnessed its success in a number of health care and mental health situations. “A lot of elderly, facility bound people, especially in Japan,” says Ms. Von Kaenel, “don’t have a lot of visitors.” This type of program, she says, gives residents a purpose every day, giving them something to bond with and show affection for.
The Eden Principle does not solely involve birds, but various animals. This particular facility in Japan also has cats, dogs and rabbits on the premises.
“Incorporating this Eden concept of using pet therapy in any kind of health facility whether it is a pediatric unit at a hospital or a senior care facility,” says Ms. Von Kaenel, “it is a notion that really works!”