Senior Housing Boundaries Blurred as Designers Challenge Tradition

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As today’s senior living designers and providers continue to challenge established ideas of what a senior residence should look like, more are recognizing the need for resident-centered care and a focus on wellness and prevention.

What it means these days to be an older adult in America is changing: many seniors are staying active through physical fitness, and some are even maintaining careers.

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These societal changes have brought many innovators to the conclusion that the traditional notion of the continuum of care must be redefined, says a Design for Aging Review report conducted by the American Institute of Architect (AIA) and the Perkins Eastman Research Collaborative.

Aging in place is becoming much more common and is “blurring the boundaries along the continuum of care,” says the report. Some continuing care retirement community providers are eliminating the assisted living component of their projects in favor of keeping resident in independent living with the help of in-home services, as needed, until more advanced needs require a move into skilled nursing.

“Opportunities and innovations like these serve many purposes, including improvements to quality of life, but they often develop out of a need for affordability. Offering more in-home services to Independent Living residents developed out of a need to lower the costs of care and address a bigger market,” says AIA. “This innovative, architectural shift arises as the senior living industry continues to transform away from custodial care facilities, toward models that help older adults maintain social and professional roles.”

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The study notes that operational and design decisions that empower people and offer resident-centered care can affect seniors’  quality of life, while also promoting occupants’ mental, social, emotional and physical well-being.

Some suggested design features include easy access and shorter walking distances to common areas, or special equipment—such as audio/video provisions in multi-media theater spaces—and other newer technologies to help people stay engaged. Facilitating seniors’ ability to stay in touch with family and friends using email and video chats is another way to break down barriers and blur spatial boundaries, says the report, especially as more residents are tech-savvy.

Access the study report.

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Written by Jason Oliva