Senior living and housing design as my grandparents and parents knew-it has changed dramatically and must continue to adapt and grow to be successful. With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day and an estimated 5-8% of the population opting for some form of senior housing the demand will continue to grow. As I deal with aging parents in that demographic and talk to them about their needs and desires for their future living arrangements. I found that their desires and concerns echo a lot of the same desires and concerns that I see being utilized within today’s successful senior developments.
First and foremost they wish to remain in the family house as long as possible. Over the past 10 years they have adopted their existing 1950’s, 2 story home to accommodate single level living. This is not always feasible and affordable to do. For example, they remodeled the kitchen, living and laundry rooms to accommodate their senior years, but their bath room could not feasibly accommodate wheel chair accessibility. Some senior housing developments provide “At-home” services so that ind viduals can remain in their homes longer. These service providers have the in-house services and are finding that they can expand to accommodate seniors with in their own environments.
The new designs must be flexible and customizable. These seniors are coming from a time where they have had many options and choices to select from in their current built environments. These options are not limited to the physical spaces but, also include psychological conditions and life styles from independent living to memory and health care services. The successful development will offer a diversity of service that can accommodate these new discriminating seniors. The old cookie cutter retirement home is obsolete. Today’s seniors will want their spaces to have their own identity. Having access to amenities such as workshops, exercise, yoga and craft rooms, will be an important part of extended living lifestyle.
Today’s seniors are more active and social than past generations; they want to be a part of a larger community and not left out on the “island”. The newer developments are being built closer to the urban centers and are being integrated with in these communities. The majority of these seniors are looking to maintain a healthy and vibrant lifestyle and being active not only within their housing community, but the larger community as well. The new developments will promote social gathering and sharing of amenities.
The new design will need to provide unique or distinctive amenities in order to stand above the competition. Today’s seniors want a connection to the outdoors, natural features are a big plus, therefore the site location itself can be a unique amenity. A good development will offer a range of green spaces, walking and biking trails, community gardens and other outdoor activities. These seniors are environmentally conscience and would like for their built environment to utilize sustainable building materials and minimize energy impacts. Incorporate light and airy exercise and communal spaces that are inviting and promote heathy activities and socialization.
Today’s seniors are very much engaged in technology and “plugged in”. Not only will technology be a big part of the social fabric of the community but will be utilized for health and wellness, connection to family and health care professionals and security monitoring as well. The leading edge developments will incorporate tech centers for its residence to access.
Today’s senior developments will provide an abundance of health and wellness care facilities. These care programs will need to be available but as discrete as feasible. The new developments can incorporate every facet of continuing care, from senior housing, independent living, short-term rehabilitation and memory care, along with the more traditional, assisted living and hospice care or services. These services can be bundled or a la cart, but will provide today’s seniors with an expectation of what their retirement dollars can provide.
The successful development will overcome the negativity of the traditional “nursing home”. The new design philosophy should embrace a departure from the stark institutional nursing home and make the residence feel at home. Spaces can be tailored for individual taste, and to accommodate the residence physical and mental status, while allowing for future reassessments. The development that can provide its future residence the best options will be more desirable to today’s active seniors.