Pizza Ovens, Wine Cellars and The Future of Luxury Senior Living Design


Wine cellars, wood-burning pizza ovens and other amenities once reserved for the hospitality industry are making their way into senior living communities, and designers are welcoming the opportunity to flex their creative muscles, says LuAnn Holec, principal of international, senior-centric design firm Thoma-Holec Design.

While new housing products are being influenced by the hospitality sector and evolutions in technology, designers must also be wary that products influenced by other industries are the best fit for future residents, Holec says.

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Recently, Thoma-Holec Design’s interior designers Kim King and Jill St. Germain won first, second and third place in the Senior Living Facilities category for the interior design of MorningStar at Arcadia in Phoenix, Az.; Maison Senior Living located in Calgary Alberta, Canada; and MorningStar at Mountain Shadows in Colorado Springs, Colo.

King also garnered a first place award for her design of The Colonnade Special Function space in Surprise, Ariz.

Holec recently spoke with SHN about emerging design trends in the senior housing market, including the role of technology in meeting both entertainment and wellness needs, what eatery models are replacing the “dining room” and aesthetic changes taking place in memory care.

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Senior Housing News: What are some key design elements that are relatively new to the sector?

LuAnn Holec: Communities are being designed with a hospitality approach. Yet, these communities must function with residential appeal, and with ease of maintenance because of the health care services that are provided.

Many manufacturers who focused on hospitality products, or high-end residential products have recognized that the senior industry is exploding and they have gotten on the band wagon and produced new products specifically for the senior market. Not all of them are good products or appropriate for the senior industry, so designers must be careful of their specifications and choices. Just because it was designed for the senior market does not mean that it will be best for the residents.

The designs must incorporate all aspects of residential, hospitality and health care, including LED lighting, IPad controlled security, lighting and sound systems, fitness/wellness and memory support programs.

Technology is paving the way for new products in all aspects of design. When the industry is able to create new products out of recycled materials, and handheld devices enable us to program our security systems, lighting, sound control and start our vehicles for us, it is inevitable that there will be an influx of new products and opportunities for all of us.

Organic gardening is also incorporated into all levels of care, allowing the residents to have accessibility to nurture and grow vegetables and flowers.

SHN: What are some of the biggest overall design trends you’re seeing in senior living?

LH: Dining rooms are no longer typical. Each community that we are designing is venturing into uncharted territory and experimenting with innovative dining choices. Varying from open display kitchens; wine cellars; Hi-Tea rooms; coffee cafés, marketplaces with fresh salads and sandwiches made to order; and even wood-burning pizza ovens.

Private dining areas with a simple table for family dining has gone by the wayside and have been converted to theme and purposeful restaurant dining experiences oftentimes with a demonstration kitchen for families, or chefs to come into the community and entertain residents with their special recipe.

Beauty salons have become full blown spas, offering a variety of spa services. Relaxation therapy, aromatherapy, deep tissue massage as well as hair styling and manicure/pedicures are offered.

Many communities are combining the salon with a wellness center whereas there is a full fitness gym, and visiting or in-house physicians/ nurse practitioners who make themselves available to the residents and staff at all times.

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SHN: What are some important design differences between assisted living and memory care products? How was this changed over the years?

LH: Design needs to incorporate computer systems that allow interaction with the residents, interactive artwork. We have developed a new line of products that allow the residents to be in the moment, yet reminisce about their past memories. They replace the old-style life skill stations.

Natural light with large expansive windows are being incorporated into memory care communities, whereas previously we would see architecture without large spans of windows.

We believe that the memory support environment should never be less than the assisted living environment, yet incorporate finishes and furnishings that allow the resident to be as independent as possible. There should be areas for privacy as well as social interaction.

SHN: What are some new features being seen in skilled nursing? 

LH: A higher level of care can still be residential in appearance and incorporate all of the amenities and opportunities that an assisted or memory care community provides.

SHN: Looking ahead, what type of senior living product do you see rising in popularity?

LH: As a company, we are striving to create purposeful, creatively designed products for people with cognitive impairment. We will be launching our product line in 2015. Dementia in all of its layers is a growing challenge in our industry.

SHN: What makes a senior living property innovative in design?

A community that is marketable, comfortable, timeless, and supports the dignity and lifestyle of the residents, while providing an environment that is easy for the staff to provide services and care is an innovative and successful community.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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