“Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well” — Florence Nightingale, 1859

By Susan Saldibar

Here’s a great quote for Women in History Month:

“Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well” — Florence Nightingale, 1859

Her quote brings to mind an interesting article I read recently about the effect of noise in senior living, and how detrimental it can be for aging residents, especially those with dementia in memory care. Whether it’s due to loss of hearing acuity that results in odd spikes of certain sounds or simply the added anxiety associated with age, noise is something we tolerate less as we grow older.

And then there’s the fact that the sounds we hear in our own homes are familiar ones for the most part . . . especially as we grow older. There are no more teenagers screaming, rock music blaring, phones ringing off the hook. As we age, our homes increasingly become havens of peace and quiet.

So, it stands to reason that residents would have an expectation of peace and quiet when they walk through your doors. But what’s the reality? What will visitors hear inside your community when they tour? Will it be a calm, peaceful environment with low voices and no buzzing or ringing sounds to disrupt the tranquility? How closely will it mirror an environment your prospective resident is used to? Moreover, what would Florence Nightingale think?

I checked in with Jacquie Brennan, Vice President of Vigil Health Solutions (a Senior Housing Forum partner), mainly because they’ve always been obsessive about creating quiet environments with their noiseless bed alarms and use of quiet sensors to safeguard residents.

Jacquie, along with Steven Smith, their VP of research and development, has some really good suggestions for senior living providers who want to dial down the noise levels in their communities. Here they are:

  • Use pagers, wireless phones or smartphones as the alerts for call systems instead of buzzers, and make sure they are set to vibrate instead of audible alerts.

  • Turn off or turn down keypad volume at elopement doors (i.e. the RoamAlert Wander Prevention System has keypads at the doors, but you can turn the audible alerts off and just get messages on your devices.)

  • Turn off beeps and buzzers at your master control stations (or replace them with newer technology)

  • Connect resident room smoke detectors to your call system so that staff is alerted through handheld devices (while it won’t remove the noise completely, it will allow staff to attend more quickly to silence the alarm).

  • Use bed alarms, such as Vigil’s Wireless Bed Sensor Outlet, that is connected to the wireless call system network so alerts go to staff devices instead of startling the resident. Bed alarms are often noisemakers that scare the resident or draw attention, so they often attempt to remove them.

  • Instead of using overhead paging use a messaging app for staff and residents.

  • Connect things like doorbells to your call system so that staff is alerted on handheld devices instead of ringing throughout the building.

All of these things make a lot of sense. And they don’t sound that difficult to do as long as you have systems in place that will allow you to alert key personnel without blaring beeps and buzzes. Clearly, there are advantages, not only in improving quality of life but also from a marketing perspective.

“Look at it from the resident’s standpoint,” Jacquie says. “They are already facing challenges associated with aging and moving, which is stressful at any age. Senior living communities should do everything possible to reduce unnecessary noise and create an environment that enhances the quality of their residents’ lives.”

And, I might add, pass the Florence Nightingale test.

For more information about Vigil Health Solutions, please visit their website:

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