Style Stars, Senior Living Communities Partnering for Personalized Interior Designs

One of the hardest parts of getting a senior to move into a retirement community is convincing them to leave their home, but some places are making conscious efforts to allow individuals to personalize the residences they’re about to move into in a bid to make them more home-like and attractive.

At one of Gainsville, Fla.-headquartered SantaFe Senior Living’s locations in South Florida, The Terraces at Bonita Springs, an experienced interior designer is meeting with all future residents with deposits in the under-construction community to walk them through the customization process.

Giving homes within senior living communities a personal touch is a trend that the industry is going to see more and more, says Pat Goheen, the personalization coordinator for the Terraces at Bonita Springs and a 20-year industry veteran with experience in residential and corporate remodeling and personalization.

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“People are taking a proactive approach to moving to senior housing,” she says. “More people want to still make decisions for themselves and be comfortable with that decision, not wait until they’re forced to make a decision and rely on their family to put them in the right place.”

With prolonged life expectancy, better health, and increased levels of activity, many seniors want to continue down the same path they’ve been and keep enjoying the lifestyle they’re used to, while being prepared for the next phase of life, Goheen says. And giving them the opportunity to customize their new homes and put in their own touches is very important.

“When they do come to senior housing, that usually means downsizing, and that’s a big step,” she says. “There are a lot of big, traumatic experiences that come along with this.”

Sunrise Partners with HGTV Designer

Back in February, Sunrise Senior Living (NYSE:SRZ) announced a partnership with HGTV designer and host Emily Henderson to get senior living design advice.

Sunrise’s campaign includes helping seniors and their families design spaces that address the changes caused by aging, and to support the transition from a larger home to apartment-style living—very similar to what The Terraces at Bonita Springs is doing.

In her role with Sunrise, Henderson will give interior design advice and help incoming residents preserve their individuality.

“A Sunrise principle of service is to celebrate the individuality of every resident and that is exactly what I try to do as a designer,” she said in a statement.

Ensign Promoting Personalized Care

This individualized, person-centered approach is being adopted in senior care communities as well. Last month, The Ensign Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:ENSG) announced a contest to find the Ensign-affiliated skilled nursing facility that has done the most in the past year to transform the typical “day-in-the-life” of residents and patients.

The company’s goal is to encourage innovation among caregivers to rethink the delivery of long-term and rehabilitative care in a patient-centered way, said Chris Christensen, Ensign’s president and CEO.

Those being considered in the competition have demonstrated that “when front-line leaders and caregivers are allowed to chart the course, patients and organizations can benefit from the creativity, passion and innovative solutions of the people who are closest to the challenges and opportunities of day-to-day caregiving,” said vice president of Organizational Development Dave Sedgwick, who spearheaded the contest’s development.

“Homier” Units Could Improve Resident Retention

Allowing residents more say in what their home looks like gives them a sense of ownership and control, according to Goheen. At The Terraces at Bonita Springs, 80% of the units have been pre-sold and all of the folks who have placed deposits will be meeting with her to discuss how they can personalize their future home.

The biggest concern is adequate lighting, she says, as many have vision problems and need a lot of light. Accommodating this includes finding ways to supply the most natural light by moving or repositioning bathrooms and kitchens, or selecting certain colors for cabinetry and flooring.

Another thing is storage, as many people moving into senior housing are downsizing. “The less they need to give up, the better,” Goheen says. “The goal is for them to move into a new home, but maintain a similar environment to what they’re used to.”

This is all a part of the design and construction process, and after consulting with future residents Goheen then meets with architects for designing and redesigning floor plans; she says they’re working on a schedule with the construction crew before the development reaches a cut-off point.

There are limits as to what can and can’t be changed according to an individual’s tastes, Goheen points out. For example, redesigning floor plans is bound by plumbing restrictions to a certain extent, especially when working in multi-story buildings as opposed to individual cottages.

But while allowing these personal touches might make for a longer and potentially costlier construction process, communities are more likely to retain residents who are happy with their surroundings for longer, says Goheen. And in her experience, she “absolutely” notices people who are pleased with and staying longer in their personalized accommodations.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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