This article is sponsored by SFCS Inc. In this Voices Interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Melissa C. Pritchard, Managing Principal, SFCS Inc., to talk about SFCS Inc.’s innovative and thoughtful approach to senior living design, as well as what they are doing to help the greater industry follow suit. She explains her discovery of senior living design and how her passion helps SFCS stay ahead of the most pressing industry trends. She also discusses the By Design Conference and its impact on the industry at large.
Senior Housing News: What life experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Melissa Pritchard: I was born to older parents, and the realities of aging are very personal to me. My parents and grandparents were essentially a generation older than those of my peers, and from an early age, I was sensitized to the concept of age and its implications. Watching loved ones struggle with environments that created barriers and made their lives more challenging struck my core. Now, these experiences are the foundation of our work, driving our mission to better the lives of those we serve. We’re committed to supporting providers, all with the ultimate goal of benefiting the residents they care for.
Why is designing for senior living a passion of yours?
I fully believe that with the right design, research, and a thoughtful approach to the environment, we can enhance the aging experience. My drive comes not just from professional conviction but deeply personal experiences. The work we do isn’t just for the sake of it — it brings about meaningful and positive changes.
The reality is, if we’re fortunate, aging is an inevitable journey each of us will embark on. It’s a shared human experience that we all anticipate, and it’s our duty to ensure it’s as enriching as possible by minimizing challenges. My passion is also rooted in a sense that our society has drifted from valuing the wisdom of age, something that is still cherished in other cultures. I believe there’s so much we can gain by reinstating that respect and fostering a deeper understanding and connection to the aging process.
What does SFCS do to stay ahead of those trends, and how do those perspectives play into that?
Staying updated with the evolving trends in senior living is all about thorough research and collaboration. Digging deeper, it’s not only about what happens within our team but extends to our collaborations with professional partners and our valued clients. Each project, each challenge is an opportunity for us to grow and innovate.
We aren’t just on the sidelines, we’re in the game, spearheading and diving deep into research projects. Our approach is a blend of research-driven insights and designs rooted in evidence. Everything happening in society, whether they’re challenges, opportunities, or tech breakthroughs is linked to the senior living world. By understanding these shifts and their impact on the younger folks, we can predict and adapt to their implications in the senior living sector, always staying a step ahead.
Talk more about the By Design conference and its origin. How did it come to be?
By Design is our annual platform to delve into new ideas and trends. It was established 39 years ago, initially as an internal workshop to educate our team on designs tailored for the elderly. Over time, with growing interest from our clients, its scope expanded. From being a primarily internal event, it transitioned to cater to a broader audience. Today, it’s more than just a design-focused gathering. By Design isn’t just about architecture anymore. It’s transformed into a curated conference, emphasizing the broader challenges and opportunities in the senior living sector while also visualizing the future setting for older individuals.
What are the benefits of attending By Design annually?
What I often highlight, and what our attendees echo, is that it stands out as the most intellectually stimulating event they participate in each year. We offer current and compelling content. We ensure a broad coverage of topics, presenting the latest insights and deep-rooted thought leadership. We craft our content based on real-time developments in the field. It’s not about revisiting information from a year or two ago. Instead, it’s tailored to be pertinent and beneficial for today’s senior living landscape.
What is your vision for the future of senior living design?
I have various hopes for the future of senior living design, and I dream of a time when our efforts lead to spaces that foster lively and positive aging experiences. This isn’t just about the brick-and-mortar communities, but the partnerships and bonds that influence them. I anticipate a period where our clients will be able to confidently tell their residents that choosing to live with them is backed by data that supports longer life, fewer physical challenges and sustained cognitive abilities. It’s not solely about living longer, but about ensuring those additional years are filled with quality life and health.
In a couple of words, finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry is being defined by…?”
…adaptation, transformation, opportunity. I think it’s being defined by demographics, demand, dollars, and design. I think it’s being defined by infinite possibilities. I think the real question is, what are we all going to do with all of that? We’re at a tipping point. We have a chance in front of us to change what this means, what it looks like and what we are doing. I think the real question is, are we bold enough to do it?
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
For over 80 years, SFCS has planned, designed, and provided services to hundreds of senior living communities throughout the United States. Our Architects, Engineers, and Interior Designers all specialize in designing for seniors and we believe that research and collaboration are the keys to innovation and design excellence. As researched-based Senior Living thought leaders, SFCS is deeply committed to creating the next generation of senior housing environments, while incorporating high value and innovative design. Our dedication to senior design has led us to become a premiere educational provider, trend setter, and trusted partner in the field of senior living. To learn more about By Design, sign up for our mailing list here: https://form.jotform.com/231033699317054
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].