There’s a lot of buzz around how baby boomers will change the concept of “senior housing,” from what it looks like, what it consists of, and where it’s located. Similar to how the hotel industry underwent sweeping changes to become more hospitality- and guest experience-based rather than “homey,” some architects and developers believe the upcoming generation of retirees will prompt a similar transformation in their retirement accommodations.
Providing Lifestyle & Experiences, Not Just Care Services
What’s been going on is that some architects are “flavoring” the senior living model with hospitality aspects, a shift that’s gaining traction and attraction, according to Rockland Berg, the principal and director of business development at Dallas, Texas-based three: Living Architecture.
“We’re starting with planning principles from hospitality models, and then we apply the ‘rules’ of senior living. But we’re not afraid to break some of the old senior living rules,” he says, adding that the hospitality/service model might particularly appeal to this upcoming generation of retirees.
“There’s a certain amount of ‘me’ in ‘boomer,'” he says. “They want quality, and they want services. If you go with the hospitality model, you’re thinking of them not as residents but as guests.”
Past data and trends indicate many older folks just want to stay in their own homes, rather than move to some sort of senior-specific community. But part of this could have something to do with the perception of senior housing as it often exists today: segregated communities lumping together people whose only commonality might be their age.
“If you think about the highest-quality hotels today, they’re highly-tailored and personalized experiences,” says Berg. “That’s what it comes down to: we’re talking about creating experiences that can stay with a person and be transformative.”
Broadening the Market for Hospitality Services & Amenities in Senior Living
For example, many luxurious, resort-style, high-end senior living residences offer spa and wellness services. This in and of itself has a hospitality feel to it, but rather than have these services available just to a community’s residents, some project designs are trending outward to the community at large.
One Colleyville, Texas-located project three: Living Architecture is working on will feature a third-party “upper-end branded” spa that will set up shop within the community, and Berg says the spa’s planned placement near the front of the building is very purposeful.
In the past, these types of communities have been “islands of seniors that are walled away in an exclusive environment” that can be “really nice,” but don’t attract a multigenerational crowd into the vicinity of seniors, he says. This particular community, which is still in the design and zoning stages, will be located between a public school and a retail center.
“The whole idea is to pull the larger community into the senior community itself for retail-esque needs like the spa,” Berg says. “It’s more of an inclusive concept of mixing potential clientele.”
Something else communities could consider is outsourcing meals to a restaurant located just outside a senior living residence, Berg suggests. Or, conversely, a community can pull in the outside community by providing restaurant-style dining services, which can enable providers to look at the larger community as a revenue stream.
More hospitality-style features can come from how individual apartments are designed within the community. In multi-level residential buildings, bathrooms are generally stacked up against corridor for the most efficient plumbing design, says Berg. But someone might be used to having a bathroom at home with windows, and oftentimes hotel resorts will have bathrooms with lots of natural light.
“In some of our designs, bathrooms are grabbing daylight and filling them up with natural lighting,” Berg says. “It’s a very, very healthy aspect of living; if you take a bathroom and make it a spa environment, it can become a much more amazing space.”
Hospitality Designs Don’t Have to be More Expensive
While it may seem like adding these types of features would add lots of costs to a development, this doesn’t have to be true, according to Berg. In many cases, his firm “trades” square footage within the building.
“We’re not necessarily designing a bunch of little rooms around a bunch of different things, like a specific library, a cafe, etc.,” he says. “The spaces are a little more open, and get more daylight; they’re very dynamic spaces that can have a multitude of things going on and can transform depending on the occasion.”
It’s a different way of thinking about and organizing space, he continues, and it’s not always about making a unit bigger, but more about where the square footage is applied. Instead of a dining room meant specifically for eating, how about a “great room” that can serve a variety of purposes?
“We’re moving square footage around into what we think the next generation is going to demand,” he says. “The way we look at it is, we’re going to exceed the expectations and meet the coming need for the boomers.”
The senior living industry is starting to get more diverse, according to Berg. “Our clients are realizing that they’ve got to change their mindsets in terms of competitively attracting their prospective residents into their communities. The mindset is moving outside of the old model; we’ve found a lot of attraction to these [new] ideas.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace