Senior Housing Design Takes New Cues from 20-Somethings

Gone are the days of senior housing designed with grandparents in mind. Today, architects in the space are actually looking at the wants and needs of much younger residents—as young as 20-something—to get some of their newest design cues.

They’re finding in order to stay competitive among residents in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, senior housing from independent living to assisted living and memory care must be appealing to more than one generation.

“There’s a blurring of the lines,” says Rocky Berg, Principal and director of business development for senior living at Three Architecture. “I am seeing a greater attraction to creating less islands of retirement. I think of them more as inclusive senior living environments where we are purposely blurring the lines with mixed use and multi-generational living opportunities.”

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The design of the communities considers the surrounding environment as well as structural details, taking inspiration not just from senior housing but from hospitality, boutique hotels and new homes. Berg cites a current project in San Antonio where a former brewery is being repurposed into a hotel.

“There’s a lot of residential with mixed use. Bringing a senior living community into that mix is a very attractive idea as a multi-generational opportunity,” he says. “I think that’s what’s going to attract the boomers. They want to be in the mix and they want to be cool. It’s that idea of ‘cool’ in senior living.”

For rental properties, it may mean designing spaces for a younger audience in mind.

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“It’s amazing how many apartments are designed for Gen-Y and how many people in the 55-plus group move into those communities,” says Manny Gonzalez, principal at KTGY. “[We did one] 500-unit apt complex and 10% are over 55. they are looking for the same lifestyle as the younger group.”

Designers and architects today are scrapping old ideas about what senior living elements are appealing to older residents.


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“We are trying to rethink the typecasting and the preconceived notions we have had for years about what this generation of residents and renters is going to want,” Gonzalez says.

Specific design elements include spaces to entertain, spaces for storage, great rooms and expansive kitchens. Then there’s the garage.

“The garage is something you’ve never seen anywhere [in this kind of lifestyle],” Gonzalez says. “We designed a garage space with a rollup door and a dart board. It’s more of a hangout. The community is finding they can go to Home Depot or Lowe’s for DIY classes and teach people to do things in the garage space. It serves a practical purpose, but it’s not something you see every day. It is the challenge, but also part of the fun.”

The bar gets higher as 60-somethings and 70-somethings relate back to their grandchildren instead of their own parents of grandparents, he says.

“I don’t want to live in the building I moved my grandmother into. So you are seeing contemporary design. Think of the W hotel. It’s a really cool contemporary building, not a stuffy building with doilies and floral patterns. People want to move to apartment and want it to have cool feel.”

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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