Is your building sending the right message?

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James McLain
James McLain

The elevator pitch is a classic method of quickly communicating an organization's products, services or general message. Presented with this brief sales pitch, a potential client quickly can determine whether he or she is interested in your business and whether they should look elsewhere.

This elevator pitch strategy goes hand-in-hand with a residential community's appearance. Dull, outdated and damaged features of a building's interior can make both current and potential residents question a community's credibility.

A senior living community's entrance, lobby areas and common spaces usually are the first areas that come to mind when community owners and designers want to create a spectacular first impression, but the same message has to resonate through all aspects of a building's interior. Unfortunately, elevator interiors often are overlooked in community renovation projects, leaving elevator cabs in a dated limbo of worn surfaces.

Elevator cabs can suffer damage daily from wheelchairs, walkers and carts. According to the National Elevator Industry Inc., one elevator passenger can average four trips per day, meaning that 18 billion passenger trips occur every year in the United States. This figure can increase substantially in a senior living community, where residents and family members both live and/or socialize.

These numbers make it difficult to ignore the impression that an elevator's interior can have on visitors and the well-being of residents. Fortunately for community owners and designers alike, creating a modern and low maintenance elevator interior is simple, with a variety of finish options and protective features available.

A few limits exist to what kind of finishes an elevator can have, but some important features to keep in mind are surface protection and Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

An elevator may be the only option to move between floors for individuals with disabilities. For this reason, elevators must have handrails installed at 30 inches above the floor of the cab in most scenarios. Although the main purpose of these handrails are for individual stability, some handrail models can serve as protection for cab walls from carts, wheelchairs and heavy traffic in general. These protective models come in a variety of shapes and styles.

Another dual-duty, cost-efficient consideration for cab renovation is wall protection. With around 20,000 trips per year for one elevator cab, interior damage is inevitable without the proper protective features. Cab walls can maintain a comfortable and residential look within an elevator's interior, with finish options such as woodgrains, soothing colors and custom imagery. With the added bonus of durability, interior wall protection options have become a major component of senior living community design.

Elevator interiors do not have to be a time-consuming renovation. Depending on the product, interior finishes can be installed within a short time frame and little disruption to traffic flow.

James McLain has worked in the eldercare industry for 16 years as the general manager of Construction Specialties Eldercare, interiors division, the manufacturer of Acrovyn interior products. A member of the Society of the Advancement of Gerontological Environments, he may be reached at jmclain@c-sgroup.com or 262-827-3090.

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