Shared Amenities Drive Integration of Senior Living, Larger Community

Development trends such as intergenerational living, senior housing as a mixed-use component and the demand for senior housing in dense urban cores are gaining in popularity. As a result, developers and operators are working with architects and designers to create exciting amenity packages that can be enjoyed by both senior housing residents and the outside community, and help integrate senior housing within a larger neighborhood more naturally.

This design trend was a prevailing theme among the panelists on Senior Housing News’ Architecture and Design Trends for 2019 webinar.

Providers all along the care continuum, in both domestic markets and overseas, are increasing integration between senior living buildings and the community at large, the panelists noted. To achieve this, senior living designers are creating buildings that put hospitality front-and-center more than ever before, while still being settings that support residents’ health care needs.

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A pendulum shift in amenity design

The early days of senior housing were about socialization, and the intent of a community’s common areas was to foster congregation, said Steven Levin, senior vice president with Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE: OHI), a real estate investment trust said.

Brightview Senior Living Patrick Ross
Brightview West End, an assisted living community in Rockville, Maryland.

As people bought and became more accustomed to homes, they demanded larger living units to transfer furniture and other belongings when they transitioned into senior living, and the size and quality of common areas took a back seat. The amenities were not being utilized as well as they should have been.

Now the focus is swinging back to making living units smaller and designing livelier amenities, Levin said. Part of that philosophy is to design amenities and public spaces that cater to residents, as well as the general public. Communities are being developed with landscapes designed to encourage socialization, with an emphasis on walking and outdoor spaces. There is a progression of senior living being woven into a community, with less institutional design

This is happening across the care continuum, and Levin sees this as a good thing.

“Those designers focusing on not having assisted living just be purely for those people who live there, but opening it up to the outside, is a great way to bring people together and take advantage of the amenities,” he said.

A community’s location can be an amenity in itself. As the senior living industry prepares for the arrival of the “silver tsunami,” locations near theater districts, museums and other cultural institutions, and quality retail, will be in demand.

Redefining amenities for post-acute and rehab

The desire for greater connections between a care facility and the larger neighborhood is trickling into higher acuity facilities such as post-acute and rehabilitation centers, THW Design Director of Design Lorraine Enwright said.

“Concierge quality is really what you’re trying to create,” Enwright said. “It will be more relevant with design as it evolves and communities start to partner with towns on sharing costs and amenities.”

Senior living adaptive reuse Courtesy of THW Design
A draft of the new floorplan for Premier Place at the Glenview, a post-acute and rehab facility in Naples, Florida.

As more acute care facilities bring a hospitality component into amenity packages, the clinical services are being moved away from the sight lines of visitors and residents. THW completed renovations to, and an expansion of, Premier Place at the Glenview, a health care and skilled nursing facility in Naples, Florida. The linchpin of the project involved converting the centralized nursing station into a new neighborhood core with social spaces and dining. A space south of the central core is now the public reception area. The goal was to create a branded personality to appeal to visitors and potential residents, as well as rehab patients, Enwright said.

“They wanted to create something that actually stood out and was different,” she said.

On the international front: community integration

Whether it is a sprawling campus or a dense high-rise, the connection between senior living and the larger community is the primary driver in senior housing development internationally as well, D2 Architecture President David Dillard said.

Integration can be more complicated in large campuses. Taikang Community Yue Garden, the 2018 SHN Architecture and Design Award-winning international community, is a city within a city, Dillard said. Taikang’s retail component, especially, is near-invisible to outsiders.

“This is a different definition of retail,” Dillard said. “This is more suited for people on campus.”

Jade Tower Seth Powers
Jade Tower, a continuing care retirement community in Shanghai, China.

The opposite is true with Jade Tower, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Shanghai, China. The community includes on-street retail which is pedestrian accessible and thoroughly integrated.

The process continues to evolve

As hospitality gains greater influence over senior housing design, operators are reaching out to experts in the field to marry the two cultures. Levin singled out Benchmark Senior Living as an industry leader, heavily focused on putting hospitality at the forefront and hiding the clinical component. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Benchmark operates a portfolio of 58 communities, and recently announced plans for new urban developments with a wellness focus.

Enwright observes a deeper merging between health care and senior living, even as amenities are improving. Higher acuity facilities are starting to add bistros to their common amenities, and upgrading the retail to include gift shops. Check-ins at post-acute and rehab centers are adopting the concierge approach popular in high-end senior housing.

Dillard sees the hospitality model shifting more toward a residential model, moving forward. Architects and designers work for their clients, and those customers want to eventually integrate active adult into their communities to create something more communal.

“Ultimately, I want to live at any age where I feel like a part of a community, with a set of friends,” Dillard said.

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