I started writing these Food for Thought posts a decade ago, three years after launching the Gold Notes blog, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. They give me an outlet to express my thoughts about life and design that don’t fit neatly into tips, trends or other standard fare.
I didn’t expect I’d ever be writing about a global pandemic, but here we are experiencing one, and what I experience profoundly, I usually end up writing about. I hope these insights are valuable to you, and spark ideas of your own.
COVID has made us appreciate the gifts of nature and simplicity
(Photo Courtesy: Deckorators, deckorators.com // Wellness by Design (Tiller Press, 2020) (c) J. Gold)
A century ago, the world was struck by a virulent strain of influenza that infected about a third of everyone living at the time, and took an estimated 50 million lives. About 675,000 of those who became known as “Spanish Flu” victims had lived in the United States. As of this writing, 700,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives to this latest viral scourge. COVID-19 has already taken 4.8 million lives globally, with 237.7 million cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Those stats would have been much higher had it not been for scientific developments in the decades since 1918. I’m profoundly grateful for those and hope I don’t need any of the treatments before the pandemic abates. I hope you don’t either.
While much of the coverage related to COVID progress has focused on vaccines and treatments, there are areas worth exploring that relate to wellness design. Here are five:
When the pandemic first struck the United States, the predominant transmission methods were thought to be droplets caught by those standing close or touching shared surfaces, (as many other coronaviruses are spread). Later in the summer, as I reported here and in my Forbes.com coverage, it was determined to be much likelier to spread through aerosolized particles. That meant easier transmission across rooms, particularly those that are poorly-ventilated.
Lesson #1: Our indoor spaces need and deserve better ventilation to reduce the risk of illness.
Certain underlying health conditions put adults at high risk of severe COVID, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease and heart conditions. “While each of these factors can increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, people who have several of these other health problems are at even higher risk,” the renowned health authority reports. Healthier food and drink regimens can help treat these conditions. Today, that can mean not just reduced risk of illness and hospitalization from those illnesses, but from them increasing your risk of COVID hospitalization and death.
Lesson #2: Our kitchen layouts, storage, appliances and fixtures need to be optimized for healthy meal prep to make it easier to get and stay fit.
COVID kept millions of Americans at home last year, avoiding crowded parks, beaches and trails. Some of that was out of an abundance of caution, as we later learned that the risk of transmission outside was much lower, and our great outdoor spaces can be safely enjoyed with social distancing. (I now only hike or ruck with one companion, rather than in groups, for example.)
However, many individuals don’t have the luxury of escaping for an hour or an afternoon, given work or caregiving responsibilities that keep them close to home. This informs what I believe is an outdoor imperative for each of our living spaces.
Lesson #3: All residential categories should have available outdoor space to safely enjoy nature. Ideally, that includes private space for each home or apartment with plant life, shade and a place to sit. If that’s not possible, the community should offer sufficient space for all of its residents to gather safely in a natural setting (roof garden, community garden, courtyard, etc.).
Millions of office workers and students were sent home last year to telecommute. Millions of doctors and therapists transformed appointments into telemedicine visits. All of these shifts share some wellness design requirements: Fast secure internet access, good lighting, quiet and privacy. Working or studying long hours also require ergonomic setups to prevent pain, injury and fatigue.
Lesson #4: Our homes need healthy work zones for a range of personal, professional and academic purposes.
I think the suddenness with which our world changed last year and the rapid stripping away of so many activities we took for granted, like movie dates, gym workouts or evenings at our neighborhood taverns, made us realize what really matters in our lives – like our health, our families, our communities. It did for me at least.
COVID changed our priorities, our ties to each other and our relationships to our living spaces. Many, like me, began exercising at home. Others took up baking, meditation or gardening. We made fewer shopping trips and found places at home to store bulk purchases. We cared for our vulnerable friends, neighbors and family members.
There’s an expression I heard last year during the early months of the pandemic that resonated with me: “We’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” Some of us were able to work from home, reducing our exposure to the virus. Others had extra rooms that worked for temporary home offices or bedrooms that could shelter elderly loved ones whose nursing homes weren’t safe or house the teen home from college. Many who worked in frontline jobs or shared crowded living spaces had none of these, and were among the hardest hit b COVID.
While each of our circumstances are different, I hope we emerge from this shared health crisis with a renewed consciousness about what’s really important in life.
Lesson #5: Let’s design our homes and neighborhoods to be shelters from the storm, respite for our spirits, and supportive spaces for those we cherish, a circle I hope that’s widened to encompass our greater communities.
My latest Forbes.com piece looks at bathroom design and remodeling trends, as shared by Houzz.com. Here’s a link to that story.
One of the top trends for residential bath projects is bathtub upgrades
(Photo Courtesy: Lucy Call (c) Houzz)
BOOK REVIEW UPDATE
Thank you to everyone who has taken time to write an Amazon review in the past few weeks. I’m so excited to be closing in on 50. Only five more to reach that goal! As I mentioned in my previous post, if the book is accepted into the trade show bookstore I’m submitting it to, I’ll do a wellness design gift drawing for my Book Launch Circle members, so be sure you’re on that list! Past giveaways have included an anti-fatigue mat from GelPro and a handheld massaging showerhead from Kohler. I haven’t chosen the next one, but it’ll definitely be something worthwhile!
NEW FREE DOWNLOAD
As you might have noticed, there’s a new FREE DOWNLOAD available! Click here or on the image to get yourself a copy.
These are all of the past and upcoming WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS events on the Clubhouse app.
All are scheduled for 4 PM Eastern/1 PM Pacific the first and third week of the month! Hope you’ll join us for one or more. In case you can’t make it, I’ll be sharing links to the recordings afterward, as you’ll see below.
- 10/20 Healthy Home Beverage Centers
- 11/3 Healthy Holiday Entertaining at Home
- 11/17 Self-Care Home Spaces
- 12/1 Wellness Design-Inspired Gift Ideas
- 12/15 Healthy Home-inspired Resolutions
- 6/2 Smart Homes / Healthy Homes — Recording Link!
- 6/16 Home Fitness Spaces — Recording Link!
- 7/7 DIY-Friendly Outdoor Wellness Design — Recording Link!
- 7/21 Healthy Kid Spaces — Recording Link
- 8/4 Healthy Work from Home Spaces — Recording Link
- 8/18 Smart Home CEDIA Expo Preview — Recording Link
- 9/1 Great Grill Centers (in time for Labor Day) — Recording Link
- 9/15 Laundry and Flex Rooms — Recording Link
- NEW! 10/6 Small Appliances for Healthy Living — Recording Link
I’m a pretty avid reader on wellness-related topics and decided to share some of the riches I’m finding with my Gold Notes readers. Here are a few links you might find interesting and helpful:
- Health-related: Why exercise is more important than weight loss for a longer life (New York Times)
- Fitness-related: How to do pull-ups (Washington Post)
- Health-related: Childhood obesity is a threat to kids and our nation (San Diego Union-Tribune)