The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Eric Harrmann, chief design officer for AG Architecture, has been named a 2021 Future Leader by Senior Housing News parent company Aging Media Network.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Harrmann sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about how a middle school report on Frank Lloyd Wright laid the foundation for his career.
What drew you to senior living?
In sixth grade, I was in a gifted program at school and wrote a report on Frank Lloyd Wright. Interestingly enough, I decided then that I was going to become an architect and I was going to design places where people lived. Lo and behold, I stuck to that.
I had a passion for designing places where people live and engage and interact with each other. I was originally drawn to the mixed-use aspect of larger scale developments. I worked through the relationship between multifamily and senior living components, and found a passion for how older adults benefit from the environments that we create.
What is your biggest lesson learned during your career?
No two communities ever be viewed in the same fashion. So much of the residents’ experiences are based on the experiences they had growing up – the culture of the community that they’re coming from. And that is the inspiration for a lot of different components, whether it is activities, the design style, or even how the buildings are broken up. If you approach each and every project as a unique opportunity to fit into the lifestyle, the culture of the community that you’re adapting, that will make it successful. The approach where every feature created can be the same, is the wrong way.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior living, what would it be?
We need to have a better understanding of intergenerational living. I recently made a presentation on the subject at a conference. Our presentation was one of six on intergenerational lifestyles, each took a different approach to what intergenerational meant to them.
We need to look to the future and understand how each component of a mixed-use development impacts adult children, seniors, students, as well as how these components can come together for the benefit of all. I came from a background where I was working on senior living and multifamily mixed-use projects at the same time. My colleagues jokingly talked about how the residential multifamily developer targets an empty nester. And we have a meeting with the senior living community and they would talk about how their average age is 81-82. We’d like to get that down into the 70s. That means we need to attract some of these residents in their 60s. What does that look like? The answer has been, it looks like the multifamily project that we designed for a different client. How can we blend those two generations and get everything under one roof?
What do you foresee as being different about senior living heading into the near future?
We’re going to see cautious optimism that the changes that we’re making to address the post-pandemic experience are going to be the right decisions. We’re going to see a learning curve, and we might not actually experience it until 2023 or 2024, when some of these new communities are more operational.
The experiential changes and the design techniques that are evolving now are going to drive the resident experience. Hopefully, everybody is cautious to not adopt an overly medical model. We still need to ensure that there is socialization and amenity space that allow for different scalable activities, and not a sense where everything needs to be able to be separated.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior living?
What quality must all future leaders possess?
You must possess determination and flexibility. If you can find a way to balance the two, you’re built to be a good leader.
If you could give your younger self advice on your first day, what would it be and why?
Stick to the plan that you’ve built. I decided that I wanted to be an architect when I was in sixth grade. I went to an architectural school in Wisconsin. I got my first job and then I started working towards developing relationships with my mentors at the time to understand what architecture means as a profession and as a design process. I would tell the younger version of myself, “You’re doing it right.”
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