By: Janet Lively and Jim Schaefer
For 35 years of our firm’s 63-year history, we’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with many national clients in the aging care markets, shaping the environments of people like my grandparents, parents, and future generations. A significant evolution in the desires, preferences and economics surrounding this market has occurred. Older facilities typically boasted modest interiors and, if you will, “the basics”; they were designed and constructed to accommodate the culture and ethos of a depression-era population. With this next generation, communities today must provide amenities and sophisticated interiors or they risk losing market share. Enhancing residents’ daily living throughout the aging continuum, in a setting similar to, or better than they have in independent living, is the objective.
Emerging trends in senior housing design can vary, due to the diverse desires of the retiring population. We have observed that our clients focus on core areas like flexibility, amenities and aesthetics, innovation and technology, and wellness. However, a competing owner priority is operational cost savings and long-term adaptability, some of which can be delivered through efficient design, innovative finishes and infrastructure technologies, such as LED and data connectivity.
Flexibility & the Future
Architects and interior designers are incorporating open spaces, that encourage social interaction, and that are conducive to a variety of activities and gatherings. Formerly, activity rooms were dispersed throughout a community; now designs feature modifiable common areas which flexibly respond to diversified activities. These spaces can transform, with minimal updates, as activities and future programming needs change.
Amenities & Aesthetics
Today’s residents’ preferences are revolutionizing fundamental designs related to daily services, such as dining. They seek interactive dining experiences, not just a room in which to eat a meal. Communities have responded by featuring multiple spaces and styles of dining, including flexible hours like a restaurant, and private family dining for special occasions. Tom Watts, President & CEO, Exceptional Living Centers says, “our communities accommodate resident and guest’s diverse interests by adding an assortment of areas throughout, in which we cater to these. This assures that whether a guest prefers an inviting respite area to read or enjoy quiet time, watch a movie or game with friends, host a celebration or meal in the private dining room, we want them to have that choice.”
Traditional models separated residents and the outside community. Now, developers are inviting the local community in, positioning community offerings as public services, making them easily accessible. Outside businesses, such as salons or rehabilitation services are being integrated into communities; these professionals are able to operate their businesses independently, not by the senior living community. In this model, the community receives a fee from the businesses, offsetting operating expenses.
Our communities accommodate resident and guest’s diverse interests by adding an assortment of areas throughout, in which we cater to these. This assures that whether a guest prefers an inviting respite area to read or enjoy quiet time, watch a movie or game with friends, host a celebration or meal in the private dining room, we want them to have that choice. Tom Watts, President & CEO of Exceptional Living Centers
Interpretations of nature through interior or architectural design offer a unique, memorable touch to any senior living environment. Natural elements, such as living plant walls, add warmth to a space by bringing nature indoors. Using nature in this way has shown to positively affect residents by reducing stress, improving cognitive performance, emotions and mood.
Increasingly, older adults are integrating technology into their daily lives; in fact, they are becoming the fastest-growing demographic on social media. They are, or are becoming, tech savvy. As a result, communities are incorporating USB connections, and charging stations into millwork and Wi-Fi throughout, as well as creating keyless room entry. These additions often negate the need for a community business center. In some cases, residents receive tablets as a move-in perk. Therefore, connection accommodations are not only necessary; they are a desirable feature beyond tablets.
Many communities are adding resort-caliber spas or fitness rooms, as their residents are seeking a mind, body and soul interaction on-site. Others are creating spaces for cooking demonstrations, fitness classes and equipment personalized for seniors, yoga and wellness spas.
And rehab? This sector has experienced tremendous transformation, primarily instigated by wealth, expectations and private pay. After surgery, many baby boomers utilize short-term rehab services at these communities. This clientele expects resort- and hospitality-style amenities to make their stay more pleasant. Communities must to recognize and identify changes necessary to make future generations of senior residents comfortable.
In conclusion, we continue to see these communities cater to new and changing expectations. Technological advancements, wellness and cultural centers, community engagement, intergenerational programs and a hospitality influence, create dynamic new environments enrich life for seniors, and assorted revenue streams for providers. Success in this industry lies in creating the most innovative and responsive solution.
— Janet Lively is vice president of Marketing and Business Development and Jim Schaefer is the business development executive at Schaefer General Contracting.