Top Hotel Chains Give Cues to Senior Living

While senior living has been taking note of hospitality offerings like wine bars for some time, there’s still more to learn from how top hotel chains and other industries are doing business— including building out staff-centric spaces to help with recruitment and retention.

Gain insight into this and other trends in architecture and design in this Q&A series leading up to the 2015 Senior Housing News Design & Architecture Awards, exclusively sponsored by Kwalu. SHN recently asked returning judge Dan Cinelli his thoughts on trending topics in senior housing design this past year.

SHN: What are the top trends you’ve seen in senior housing in 2015?

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DC: We have seen so many new trends this past year that are addressing the expectations of the new and future consumer. New types of flexible environments for lifelong learning are being created, which include intergenerational art programs and hosting classroom space for local junior colleges, to name a few.

Another major trend is taking place in dining venues. We are beginning to see all-day casual dining spaces where people can stay after lunch to enjoy another cup of coffee and some leisure time with friends without feeling rushed.

SHN: Where is senior housing design and architecture falling short in comparison to other industries?

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DC: While not the place where one would expect to find sleek design and high-end amenities, many business hotel chains like Marriott and Hyatt have been introducing some great features into the suburban market. Several now offer coffee bars with tablet arm chairs, hybrid spaces for a wine bar or art gallery, and restaurants with clean and modern touches, for example. The senior living market would be wise to take note here and continue to offer the range of amenities that are now prevalent in hospitality settings.

A cue that senior living should take from the hospitality market in particular is the industry’s selection of more urban geographic locations for their new senior consumer. Senior living developers need to select sites that can utilize retail, civic and public transit amenities that have the potential to energize their marketing plan, and they should take full advantage of the intergenerational activities that come naturally in a dense and vibrant urban setting.

SHN: What’s your favorite new technology that’s specific to the senior housing industry and why?

DC: With the connection of more senior organizations to ACOs and health care partners, especially with the switching of comprehensive care beds to Medicare rehab units, we are seeing a major shift in the industry to a fully integrated technology framework that not only communicates to all levels of the continuum of care, but also allows adult children to access information as well.

We are also very excited about the utilization of telemedicine in independent living urban satellite buildings, which allows a proactive aging-in-place engagement for the residents, even if they are two miles away from the main campus or hospital partner.

SHN: How can operators design communities that are not only relevant now, but will continue to be relevant in the future?

DC: We are urging our clients to create buildings that are flexible for the unknown needs of the future. Buildings and communities should include structural and mechanical systems that allow for fluctuations to programming as well as the demands of the new consumer. As to the size of the units, designs should account for new technologies that have yet to be invented, and town center dining amenities will need to be upgraded no less than three times in the next 20 years.

Another thing that we are seeing in other industries is serious investments in staff programs and spaces that are designed to recruit and retain a sustainable workforce for the future. These environments (dining, education, wellness, etc.) should support and nurture our frontline employees to exceed their own expectations.

SHN: If money were no object, what is the one thing you would include in every senior housing design this year?

DC: We are convinced that every new or remodeled community should have a “Center for Healthy Living” program that will support the six dimensions of wellness (physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and occupational) for their residents, staff and surrounding senior community partners. This health club approach obliges each customer to evaluate their existing wellness status and proactively map and engage a plan for a great wellness outcome. Assessment clinics, sensory focused day spas, cardio and strength training programs, yoga and aerobic classes and nutrition seminars all allow the community to proactively thrive into the future.


unnamedDan Cinelli is the Principal & Executive Director of Perkins Eastman based out of Washington, DC. He is one of the lead principals in the firm’s international senior living practice area. He has collaborated with more than 100 national senior living organizations, sponsors, and associations, emerging as a visionary in the field. Dan’s 36 years of hands-on experience in this area, combined with his strength in scenario planning, board education, trends analysis, partnership development, and master planning, allows him to facilitate his clients’ strategic thinking about the future.   

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