rendering of comfortable seating area at Journey Club at Westman Village

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A Safe Place to Thrive

Designing active senior living communities that embrace vitality | 2021 Insight Series - Residential Care

By 2030, every Baby Boomer will be 65 or older. This demographic turning point coupled with a global pandemic is causing architects and engineers to reimagine senior living to strengthen the fabric of communities.

A new balance is being sought between safe, individual care and promoting an active lifestyle. The crossover to hospitality-driven services lies ahead as seniors (and the government) will demand a better experience for care, cleanliness, food and beverage and amenities.  It’s an evolution where low-tech meets high-tech to build or reposition “wired” facilities that support virtual healthcare, entertainment, communications and direct to home delivery.

Learn more about the future of Residential Care as Bruce McKenzie hosts a roundtable discussion with integrated team members as part of our 2021 Insight Series.

How is design responding to the way we care for our aging population?

Bruce McKenzie, Vice President

A more engaged community means more demands for higher levels of care. A shift to active lifestyle living is emerging in the design of senior living centers. Health is still a priority for residents, but that now includes creating a wellness community that focuses on staying active, getting outside and communicating with friends and loved ones. Residents are expecting to spend the next 30 or 40 years in these communities and it’s important to provide a design solution that promotes an active lifestyle.

Simon Bell, Director

The goalposts for “old age” continue to move. Seniors are staying active longer and are not content with isolation. Health practitioners are understanding that mental health is just as important as physical health, and design is reflecting that. There is a move away from standalone nursing homes in favor of complexes that blend different levels of care from independent living to assisted living to end of life. At the Dinnington site in Newcastle, UK we incorporated single and double occupancy apartments, but also single-story bungalows where multiple people can live, share amenities and have a dedicated staff member on site. This area is complimented by a rural garden that promotes a healthy lifestyle while keeping residents safe and monitored. 

Tiffany Whitnack, Studio Manager

Implementing day-to-day activities, like visiting the post office or going to the pharmacy can go a long way in creating independence. The addition of childcare centers can also help elderly residents feel connected, help with mental decline and even reduce the risk of disease and death. Just because we are designing in an enclosed space does not mean we need to abandon the interactions that a traditional community offers.

Mohan Srinivasan, Principal

There is a crossover happening between hotel design and active living. Residents want that “preferred guest experience,” and that includes a balance of amenities while staying safe and healthy in the confines of their own room or common areas. Traditionally, operators would never have considered planning for the inevitable arrival of technology-driven food and goods delivery to the facility, but that has changed. The generational shift has prompted hotel operators to take a closer look at active seniors living, bringing a new viewpoint to a dynamic market.

Revera Facility Exterior Image

What design trends has the pandemic accelerated in residential care?

Bruce McKenzie, Vice President

Technology is a big driver for senior living as it must support essential services and communications. Virtual technology makes it possible for residents to connect well beyond the immediate surroundings of their community. Our focus is to designing private rooms that allow for virtual health meetings with a clinician, videocalls with friends and family and wearables that can transmit health information back to the senior’s healthcare provider. Facilities need to focus on how they can provide or enhance technology infrastructure to meet the new demands of residents.

Adrian Todeila, Principal

An active and social community is important but there is also a demand for safe and healthy individual rooms and that requires innovative engineering. Humidity levels need to be set between 40% -60%, fresh air intake will be increased to 100%, and new technology like copper deposits to kill pathogens and CO2 sensors to trigger air exchanges will become standard. We are also exploring UV light technology as a sanitization method in active living communities.

Reagan Brown, Senior Interior Designer

If it can be made hands-free, make it hands-free. Everything from soap dispensers to calling an elevator on your phone can be implemented to keep residents safe and physically distant from one another. Those decisions require coordination between engineers, architects and interior designers to properly integrate touchless technology into every space.