These days, older adults looking into moving to a senior living community have their eyes on many aspects of their lifestyle beyond care. The look and feel of a community can influence a person’s decision to move into a community just as much, if not more, than the services and care offerings available.
Feeling at home in a community is the most important element of the customer experience to seniors, according experts Liz Bush, senior vice president and director of senior living marketing and sales at senior living marketing, development and management firm Life Care Services (LCS), and Kelley Hoffman, vice president of senior living at interior planning firm Spellman Brady & Company.
In a recent Senior Housing News webinar, Bush and Hoffman revealed some recent findings on how seniors feel about the aesthetics of a community and why marketers should appeal to all the senses. The firms conducted a study earlier this year to determine the first impressions seniors and adult children have of the designs and styles of senior living communities and what may influence move-ins.
Here are some of the top takeaways on the most desired design and community preferences of residents:
1. Natural Daylight and View of the Outdoors
One of the first things that catches a person’s eye is a window or view of the outdoors, according to the study. Natural light is one of the key ingredients to make a community feel like a home for seniors. It’s so important and favorable that a feeling of brightness from large windows can even overcome other design elements that are not well liked. By comparison, spaces with an overly dark appearance or window treatments that blocked light gave participants in the study a negative impression.
2. Natural Materials
Participants noted that natural materials, including real plants, made a big difference in the feel of a community. However, too many materials was met with a negative reaction. Fireplaces were well liked regardless of their style, but too many contrasting materials felt overwhelming, according to the study.
3. Safety and Security
Adult children and seniors both said that design features that make them feel safe and secure were at the top of their list for community preferences.
“This was a bit surprising,” Hoffman said of the how important safety and security ranked. “This was a design study, and we expected feedback on color palettes and style.”
Elements such as handrails with contrasting colors and patterns were important to residents, prospects and adult children of seniors. Seating along long corridors, along with sturdy rails that contrasted from wall colors, were viewed positively among participants.
“Time and time again we heard people talking about what they liked for vision impairment,” Hoffman said of the study results. “They really mentioned contrast.”
4. Appropriate Furnishings and Accessories
Seniors moving into a community today are also firm that they want spaces that have flexibility in furnishings and details that are appropriate.
Different chair heights, enough uncrowded areas and sufficient seating were found to be the most well-liked features of community spaces. When it came to accessories, residents didn’t like items that felt unnecessary, had no use or were things they wouldn’t put in their own homes. Furniture and accessories that were considered to have more of a personal touch had the most appeal.
5. Flexible Dining Spaces
Above all, residents like having control and choice when it comes to their dining options. Flexible options, such as casual dining, varied seating options and “grab and go” are all essential elements seniors look for. In addition, an area where a resident can feel comfortable eating alone, such as a bar top, was also well liked.