SHN Awards: Smart Wristbands, Interactive Design Coming to Senior Housing

Whether it’s finding creative ways of incorporating new technology or making the most of limited space and a tight budget, it’s more important than ever for communities to be on the cutting edge of design. Gain insight from award-winning experts into the latest trends in architecture and design in this ongoing Q&A series from Kwalu, the exclusive sponsor of the 2015 Senior Housing News Design & Architecture Awards.

Two of these experts work at Indiana-based post-acute and transitional care provider Mainstreet: Dennis Dechow, Vice President of Construction & Asset Management Communications, and Tim Siefker, Director of Design & Innovation. Mainstreet was awarded the 2014 Senior Housing News Design & Architecture Award for Skilled Nursing/Post-Acute Care for its work on Wellbrooke of South Bend in South Bend, Indiana. Dechow and Siefker recently shared their thoughts on the future of senior housing design with SHN.

What are the biggest trends you predict to see in senior housing design and architecture in the next 5 years?

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Design and architecture in the senior housing world will see a great deal of change. We feel technology, community-based living, energy efficiency and interactive design will be some of the biggest trends over the next five years.

The technology world is evolving daily and the design of properties needs to adjust and rise vertically with the growth.

Properties will be more community-based with an individual identity. An example is the varying exterior design of resident doors, creating a community feel while retaining a sense of individuality.

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Energy efficiency is a key element to the design of any property. These products and architectural elements will take senior housing to the next level.

Interactive design is the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems and services. This trend is heavily focused on satisfying the needs and desires of communities and the people who live within them. An example of this would be a wristband the resident would wear with their individual preferences programmed in, such as temperature settings and meal preferences.

What design elements are today’s communities lacking that they need to have?

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Currently, we see technology and community space lacking in senior living communities. Technology integration is greatly needed. Residents don’t necessarily have the training and skills to operate the vast array of technologies available to them.

For instance, only a small percentage of guests actually know how to use Netflix or Skype. Technology needs to be brought to the level of the user or vice versa.

Community space is also lacking. Many developers run into a problem with limited space and staying within a budget.

SHN: What are the top three changes you have seen in senior housing design and architecture in the last year?

The industry has seen many changes over the last year and we’ll continue to see changes in the years to come. One major change benefiting the industry is a renewed focus on guest experience, where the design is now more focused on customer experience.

Another change involves technology, with a greater integration toward electronic medical records and what is accessible to the guests inside and outside of their rooms.

Finally, the industry has moved toward a neighborhood-type design and program for long-term care.

SHN: Why apply for the 2015 SHN Awards?

The Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards are an exciting opportunity to showcase and celebrate the best of the best within the industry.

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