Sothea Cheney, project architect and technology manager with Market Square Architects, has been named a 2022 future leader by Senior Housing News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Cheney sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about her career trajectory and the ways that she sees the industry evolving, including the need for more on-site and comprehensive clinical services.
What drew you to this industry?
I enjoy a lot of math and science as well as art and architecture which is a combination of all three of those things.
And I didn’t like talking to people as much as I liked those other things. So, despite talking with people often for my job, I like it.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
The needs of residents. Designing for senior residents is a bit of a challenge. There are parts of the design process that I wouldn’t have thought of before.
This includes the operations of the building. How operators work and how they need to work with seniors. So I learned how to make it a lot easier for both the residents and the operators.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior living, what would it be?
The thought process. Even though we’re designing for seniors, I feel as if a lot of people in their senior living designs will limit activity spaces for the residents — limit them on physical activities. I don’t think that designers should limit that at all.
I still play tennis with people who are in their 80s. They still play tennis. They like to move around. And not all seniors are the same; some like gardening to be like artwork and some people like to play golf. I think [designers] limit those kinds of activities.
For example, one of my clients wanted a pickleball court because a lot of seniors are starting to pick up pickleball. I was very excited about that.
What do you foresee as being different about the senior living industry looking ahead to 2023?
Prioritizing healthy movement and a relationship with nature. I think more and more designers, operators, and the industry are starting to think about physical activity.
And I think a lot of seniors now are more active and that they are more conscious of their health at an earlier stage in the aging process. So, we’re designing for a lot more physical activity now. That means more fitness centers, more swimming pools, etc.
We’re also adding elements that incorporate nature such as outdoor gardening and, depending on the climate, a lot more planning for indoor growing and gardening.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior living?