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Senior Living Strategy: Is Purpose-Built Design Part of Your Future?


Sep 26, 2013 | Programming & Outreach

The expressed needs, expectations and preferences of seniors and their concerned adult children continue to change and evolve. With the aid of the Internet, social media and greater societal awareness of aging-related issues, senior living consumers have become more savvy, more discerning and more demanding. The strength and intensity of this trend will increase further as the Baby Boom generation begins to seriously influence the senior living space. Just as they’ve done in every other aspect of life, they will “change the game” in senior living as well.  

Facility Design Built for Success

Senior communities have begun to respond to consumers’ higher expectations with more services, greater amenities, healthier lifestyle programs and “resident-centered” care. One area that has lagged in this process is the modernization of facility environments to support the emerging hospitality model and the application of new concepts that can actually enhance the residents’ experience, support health and healing and increase a community’s appeal and competitiveness.

As senior living providers look to the future, one key item on their planning agenda should be “evidence-based” or “purpose-built” design. These design techniques can actually influence well being, promote healing, relieve stress and reduce medical errors, infections and falls. Such techniques support “Living in Place” by enabling residents to stay healthier and remain in a community longer.

In his article, 10 Top Design Trends in Senior Living Facilities, author Bradford Perkins, FAIA, MRAIC, AICP, provides an overview of important trends that are likely to reshape the industry. As Mr. Perkins says, “All the old design models are being challenged, serious environmental design research is being done and a wide range of new models is being planned and built based on this research.” He adds, “You can build an environment for the aging that is confusing, imprisoning and depressing or you can build one that frees them, encourages them and enhances their quality of life.”

There are many important ways facility design can add to the functionality and appeal of the senior living environment as well as improve the residents’ experience and satisfaction, including:

  • Enhancing personal respect, privacy and dignity – Today’s consumers have an appropriate disdain for “institutional” environments and all the negatives they associate with it. A sense of personal privacy and respect for their dignity is paramount. Most long-term care facilities were built to function as small, low-tech hospitals as opposed to resident-centered living environments.
  • “There’s no place like home” – The trend today is toward more engaging and homelike living space. “The Green House Model” is based on the concept that senior adults prefer private suites that adjoin a common area for socialization, dining and relaxation purposes.
  • Employing hospitality industry concepts – Hospitality design concepts are now being applied to both facilities’ designs and their services and programming as consumers expect more lifestyle enhancing amenities.
  • Using technology to enhance senior living – There are many emerging technologies that make it possible for people to live longer, healthier and less restrictive lives. In an article at Senior Housing Forum, titled, Assisted Living 2.0  High Tech and High Touch, author Katy Fike, Ph.D., offers several examples and says, “Products and services that exist today and those that will emerge tomorrow can help minimize human error, scale limited resources and empower care providers in their pursuit to deliver high quality care.” Technology is now beginning to have a significant impact on seniors’ choices.
  • Replacing “Aging in Place” with “Living in Place” – Today, seniors do not equate moving into a senior living facility with a reduction in lifestyle and quality of life. Instead, they want to continue their lives and interests well into their 80s.
  • Enabling profitable program and service expansion – Memory care and short-term rehabilitation are examples of responsive services that add value to residents, provide new revenue streams and position your community for the cost-savings focus of ACOs under the Affordable Care Act.

Implications for Senior Living Providers

Design techniques are being utilized to enhance residents’ experiences, attract new customers and make communities more appealing and competitive. If your community requires additional support to prepare for future success and to optimize the effectiveness of your strategic planning and campus master planningphysical plant expansion analysismarket feasibility and demand analysiscensus enhancement strategies and budget development and analysis, be sure to look for an experienced organization that operates exclusively in the senior living marketplace and has the specialized expertise and experience in senior living marketing solutions required to succeed.

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