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‘Push the Envelope’: Architects Rethink Senior Living Design for the Boomers

Architects and designers are pushing the envelope of senior living design in an effort to meet the preferences of the incoming baby boomer generation.

Though the bulk of the cohort is still years away from reaching average senior living age, companies are preparing now by reimagining the basic senior living community design with efficiency, resident choice, care and curb appeal in mind.

Baby boomers will bring new preferences with them when they come to senior living. New senior living projects must cater to those preferences, but doing so will require a new perspective on both design and programming.

Instead of taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach, senior living companies should instead focus on “one-size-fits-one,” said Dana Wollschlager, partner and practice leader with Plante Moran Living Forward, the company’s senior living development advisory group.

“We have such a broad spectrum of options available to older adults in our industry today,” she added.”They are really picking and choosing on their own terms, and we really need to focus on transforming our products and services to what they’re going to want.”

For example, baby boomers are perhaps more open to intergenerational connectivity and living in urban environments than their predecessors, with an emphasis on making their own choices and having community and belonging. They also value wellness.

That is why architectural and design firms including Perkins Eastman, Handel Architects and Lantz Boggio Architects are spending time reimagining the senior living community to prioritize what baby boomers want, from adding more natural light to building in opportunities for social connections.

“It’s up to us to continue to push the envelope of how we create that product line that is really going to address the masses,” said Perkins Eastman Principal Joe Hassel. “It needs to be woven into everything that we’re creating for the boomer population, no matter if it’s affordable to luxury.”

Staying connected, building belonging

It’s an old refrain in senior living that the silent generation is happy with “three hots and a cot,” meaning food, a place to sleep, and perhaps a basic slate of amenities. Baby boomers, on the other hand, seemingly want more connectivity and new opportunities for socialization, and senior living architects are taking notice.

That trend has led to the rise of certain design elements that bring the outside community in, such as public-facing retail storefronts and restaurants.

Take The Trillium by Silverstone Senior Living in Tysons, Virginia, for example. The community, designed by Perkins Eastman will include nearly 200 IL, AL and memory care units. It is also part of a sprawling mixed-use campus known as The Boro Tysons. The community will feature not only senior living, but public-facing residential units, shops, restaurants and other amenities.

The Trillium by Silverstone Senior Living / Image credit: Rendering Copyright Perkins Eastman

“The big idea there is that it’s not just a standalone senior living community,” Hassel said. “The backdrop is having that vibrant, mixed-use support that creates an entire ecosystem that’s part of the fabric of the local community.”

That emphasis on connectivity will lead to residents feeling more part of their local community, Hassel added, while intergenerational mingling will happen more easily than if the community was designed internally.

The boomers are also thought to be more well-traveled, with more desire for city life and culture, according to Glenn Rescalvo, a partner at Handel Architects and the lead designer for Atria’s Coterie Cathedral Hill community.

Those trends have led design teams to cater to those preferences in a bigger way, from more unique dining spaces to bigger outdoor accommodations.

“These characteristics lead us to create more sophisticated and well-tailored common areas such as the sitting areas, library area, multiple dining areas and bar and lounge areas,” Rescalvo said.

These concepts are highlighted in Atria Senior Living and Related Companies’ new Coterie urban luxury senior living brand. There is currently one Coterie community underway in New York City, and another such project opened its doors in San Francisco this year.

Coterie Cathedral Hill / Image credit: Coterie, Atria Senior Living, Related Companies

With Coterie Cathedral Hill in San Francisco, Rescalvo said the design team developed concepts that could be translated to future projects, including emphasis on arrival sequences, spaces to gather and new outdoor spaces. All these concepts add “significant value” to future projects, and can be used as guiding principles moving forward, he said

For Lantz Boggio Architects Patner Bill Foster, designing space for the baby boomer generation means “importing experiences,” or bringing in outside activities and community groups to participate in the culture of a senior living community.

That concept is exemplified in an expansion project underway at The Davis Community in Wilmington, North Carolina. The project includes a swath of new IL apartment and cottage units, but also makes space for more outdoor engagement. A key anchor of the space includes an amphitheater and extended parking that will add community concerts and space for food trucks within the community.

“There’s a demand for convenient services with the greater community because it’s hard to get out of that community and get to those services,” Foster said. “We want to create that intergenerational energy by sharing in the community.”

These concepts of promoting connection aren’t specific to luxury products, with some operators and developers looking to translate intergenerational connections as a selling point for affordable living options while in urban environments.

That’s been seen in Garden Spot Communities’ plan for a senior living community to be built in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The intergenerational senior living community will include 150 residential units as part of a 250,000 square-foot building, with a 5,000 square-foot interior courtyard.

But perhaps a bigger draw of the planned community will be its social connections, according to Garden Spot CEO Steve Lindsey.

“As we look at new projects, we wanted to look beyond how we could create new, engaging environments where older adults can thrive,” Lindsey told SHN earlier this year.

Image Credit: Garden Spot Communities

Wellness and well-being in design

The concept of wellness in senior living communities can mean many things, and it has touched almost every aspect of the industry — including design.

Hassel contends there should be a distinction between promoting resident wellness and supporting senior living resident well-being. He points to projects like a first-of-its-kind AARP health club as the kind that are vital to supporting overall societal health, especially for seniors.

The OAK Health Club, located in Ashburn, Virginia, focuses on the needs of those age 40 and up as part of AARP’s plan to develop spaces to assist people as they age, regardless of whether or not they are associated with a senior living community.

The OAK Health Club / Image credit: Andrew Rugge/ Copyright Perkins Eastman

“The idea of well-being transcents the fitness aspect of well-being to the holistic version of mind, body, spirit and celebrates community,” Hassel said.

To promote resident wellness, Wollschlager said senior living operators must be “thoughtful” in creating strategic partnerships with outside organizations in an effort to tamp down costs for residents while supporting staff. Sometimes, that transcends design. For example, Wollschlager shared the example of a senior living project underway that wanted to offer more wellness services, but did not have room in the budget to do so with design.

“They can’t afford to build a luxurious gym or fitness center but they are partnering with a local YMCA affiliate who is interested in reaching a broader spectrum of folks,” Wollschlager added.

Another example lies in Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which offers rock climbing and a boxing gym for residents. That, coupled with its extensive wellness and brain health center, help highlight the shift towards finding new ways to tackle resident health and well-being.

Asbury Methodist Village / Image credit: Asbury Methodist Village

“I was blown away,” Wollschlager said after seeing the unique fitness options first-hand. “I’m in senior living communities all over the country and this thing was off the charts-cool.”

When Hassel works with clients, he said he’s often searching for the “story of their brand” to better shape the outline of what experiences the company wants to include in their community. That’s done by weaving lifestyle components into the everyday experience of the resident while celebrating the company’s individualized version of lifestyle they want to achieve.

“It combines it all in a way that tells a story that’s unique to the clientele that they are trying to attract,” Hassel said. “It’s about customizing the experience in a way that their lifestyle fits into the overall context of the community.”

By understanding the individual resident profile, operators can work with designers to tailor a more unique resident experience, Hassel said.

“That experience of what we create starts the minute you walk in the door from a first impression of who you’re trying to target from a lifestyle standpoint,” Hassel added.

These concepts of supporting lifestyle are apparent when looking at projects including Kendal’s Enso Village in Healdsburg, California, which is coming together in partnership with the San Francisco Zen Center. The project is also a collaboration with Mithun, HKTS, Perkins Eastman and ForrestPerkins, a Perkins Eastman Studio.

The project includes 221 IL residences and 54 support facilities for AL and memory care, but what makes it unique is its focus on mindfulness, closeness to nature, environmental stewardship, contemplative care and healthy lifestyle development.

Enso Village by Kendal Corp. and The San Francisco Zen Center / Image credit: Kendal Corp.

Through design, Foster said operators and studios are working to “set the stage” for personal experiences for residents, and that can look different for all communities depending on their price point and location.

“It’s about how do we create a premium destination for everyone,” Foster said. “Something we really want to focus on is creating a sense of destination and place.”

The post ‘Push the Envelope’: Architects Rethink Senior Living Design for the Boomers appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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