Amenities, Aging in Place & Ancillary Services Top Senior Housing Design Trends

Providing differentiating amenities, allowing for residents to age in place, and accommodating ancillary services are top trends to be aware of when designing senior living communities for the impending silver tsunami, according to a recent Building, Design & Construction Network article.  

BDC Network estimates that 5-8% of baby boomers will opt to live in some sort of a senior housing community. Extrapolated to the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, the potential number of those needing senior housing could reach six million.

However, in order to capitalize on favorable demographics, developers and operators need to specifically appeal to incoming consumers, and the article lists eight trends shaping today’s senior housing. 

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“It’s not a case of build it and they will come,” David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association, says in the article. “The project has to be well conceived, well located, and well operated.”

Communities must provide unique or at least distinctive amenities, according to BDC Network.

A community in Burbank, Calif., the Senior Arts Colony, includes a studio where residents can make their own independent films in a bid to attract local retired film industry professionals.

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At another California community in Oakdale, KTGY Group designed a senior apartment complex that features a garage-turned-hobby and craft studio stocked with workbenches, a dartboard, and a chrome table-and-chair set, after focus groups for the project indicated future residents, and particularly men, would miss being able to tinker around in their garages.

“Having an identity is critical,” Manny Gonzalez, AIA, LEED AP, a principal at KTGY, says in the article. “Get the owner, the interior designer, the landscape architect, and the rest of the team together and spend a day brainstorming to come up with something different from what the competition is doing.”

Providing an environment that allows residents to age in place is another important trend, as is offering memory care services.

Longevity may produce for many a “gray period that could last decades” during which seniors can live semi-independently, says the article, and it’s making some age-restricted developers rethink how many units of certain types of care to include in communities. 

“You’re seeing a decline in the percentage of units dedicated to assisted living, since assistance is provided with ADLs in independent living units,” says L. Bradford Perkins, FAIA, chairman and CEO of Perkins Eastman in the article. 

Living longer can also lead to a higher chance of developing some sort of memory impairment, and many senior living communities are expanding the services they offer or that are available on-site, BDC Network notes. This could look like including or adding memory care services, or expanding with space for short-term rehabilitation, whether it’s provided by a third party or by the community. 

“Green” living and sustainable design is another trend that could serve a dual purpose by appealing to the environmentally conscious while also reducing utility bills. 

Overcoming negative preconceptions of senior housing is another trend in the article, along with integrating seniors into the community at large and exploring various models of care, like the Greenhouse Project household design.

Read more about each trend at BDC Network

Written by Alyssa Gerace