New Active Adult Communities Adopt Modern, Flexible Designs

Active adult communities with a range of unit types, flexible common spaces and a range of services or convenience offerings are finding appeal among prospective residents.

The age-restricted and rental active adult sectors are seeing a surge of interest from prospective residents and investors alike. This has helped spur new development of the product type across the country, from Margaritaville’s single-family homes to Avenida Partners’ plan to invest $200 million annually in the development of rental active adult communities.

The rental active adult sector — which has risen in popularity with investors this year — has seemed to grow in recent years, according to Manny Gonzalez, principal at Irvine, California-based KTGY Architecture + Planning. KTGY has recently worked with companies targeting active adult projects, including Avenida.

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“From a business standpoint around the country, there’s more and more people getting into the active adult rental market-rate space,” Gonzalez told Senior Housing News. “The key thing is to really understand where your renters are coming from and what kind of houses they’re selling to move into these rental communities.”

To that end, KTGY’s active adult clients are looking to build communities with floorplans and features that appeal to the local market. In particular, communities with one- and two-bedroom apartments are gaining appeal in certain markets.

“We seem to be seeing a shift to two-bedroom units,” Gonzalez said. “It used to be primarily one-bedrooms, and now it’s half-and-half, [two-bedroom to one-bedroom].”

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Active adult communities are also coming with more convenience offerings, such as grab-and-go bistros, mini markets or areas with concierge services for residents, he added.

Communities are also often coming with community kitchens that can be turned into commercial kitchens, should the property be converted to independent living one day, according to Dean Maddalena, founder and president of senior living design firm StudioSIX5. Based in Austin, Texas, StudioSIX5 is an interior design firm specializing in senior living communities, with many projects located in urban markets.

“There’s a real demand in independent living and assisted living for communities in more urban areas, but there’s just no land there,” Maddalena told SHN. “So, this is an easy way where someone can come in later and convert it [from active adult].”

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Another interior design trend that’s popular in active adult is large, flexible common areas that can serve as host to many different kind of activities.

“It’s all about flexibility,” Maddalena said. “Large, open, flexible, spaces so that as the interests of the residents evolve, the spaces can evolve with them.”

In terms of aesthetics, more developers are embracing contemporary design features with different surface textures and neutral design schemes accented by splashes of color. And, they’re placing these contemporary buildings in urban locations that have access to many different cultural, shopping and dining options, according to Claire Richards, associate principal with StudioSIX5.

“One of our developer [clients], that’s their whole M.O.,” Richards said. “They like finding spots where you’re next to theaters, malls, retail, restaurants and shopping, where they don’t have to put as many amenities in the building.”

Part of these design shifts could have to do with where and why older adults are moving. The product type is seeing more married couples who are moving closer to where their children and grandchildren live, Gonzalez added. In some cases, active adult units are even second homes, or lock-and-key dwellings that serve as a home base when residents aren’t traveling the world.

For more forward-thinking senior housing trends, be sure to visit the Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards website. The submission period for this year’s awards opened on July 1.

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