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Wed ,22/06/2016

The Top 4 Senior Living Design Trends in 2016

Senior living is still one of the most active segments of the multifamily area this year. When it comes to the design of new construction projects as well as renovations and updates of senior living, the competitor is tight.

According to data tracked by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC), there are more than 18,000 units under development in 2016, and they include some of the most state-of-the art design features geared toward the resident experience as well as operational efficiencies. Operators are using design to differentiate themselves from the competition and stay relevant.

The white paper released by the Senior Housing News in June indicates that there are four of the top design trends that senior living operators are implementing in 2016, from dining-focused features to designing for technology.


1. Flexible Communities

A brand new building, which is constructed for today’s resident preferences, needs to have all of the features that will be needed in five years.  Senior living developers are using an “adaptable” approach to new constructions.

“We are beginning to see the design of adaptable, flexible communities in anticipation of the many changes occurring in the industry,” says Gaurie Rodman, Director of Development Services at Direct Supply Aptura. “Boomers are bringing pivotal changes to the senior living market driven by their sheer numbers, demand for more senior living options and shifting care and payment models. For the first time in our industry, we are being driven by need as well as consumer preferences.”

Meeting the needs of the consumers of tomorrow is a challenge and an opportunity, and there are design elements providers are implementing to stay on the cutting edge.


Proximity to major hospitals and senior populationsIn is not the only consideration in new-construction scenarios. Future senior housing sites need to meet their residents’ and families’ health care and lifestyle needs as well, such as retail centers, restaurants, universities and entertainment facilities.


With the increasing senior housing of resident populations with higher acuity needs, there is an increase of short-term care skilled nursing facility development, assisted living facilities that cater to higher acuity residents, and independent living facilities that recognize more of their residents will be taking advantage of home health services. The industry is responding to this need by developing facilities that also have the ability to function at higher acuity levels, use certifications, accommodate ADA requirements more robustly, and build in capacity to incorporate future needs for piped oxygen, vent units or greater integration of technology solutions. Ability to adapt to changing acuity levels is key to planning for buildings that will remain relevant in the future.


Health care organizations increasingly will rely on one another to provide care in the most efficient way possible. Assisted living should be built to offer a la carte skilled nursing components, and to partner with home health care providers. “Communities are going to have to swing back and forth,” Rodman says. “That is the challenge.”


Building today for an uncharted tomorrow will require the design of facilities and operations to be flexible. Adaptability in the physical structure of the building to changing programming and staffing will be essential. For instance, building a SNF that could potentially be adapted to accommodate oxygen or vent units, or assisted living that may address the needs of future higher acuity patients or significant rehab needs. 


Enhanced mind body wellness programming, food quality and choice, along with a physical environment that provides high air quality and natural light will all be integrated into the programming and design of future buildings. For instance, when

considering resident room lighting, attention to natural light and soft artificial light, along with bright lighting to accommodate any future high acuity nursing needs, should be considered.


2. Intelligent Design

Designing for senior living residents of the future means embracing their preferences of lifestyle. Intelligent design incorporates amenities and activities that provide meaningful experiences through a focus on experiential design.

To this end, senior living is taking lots of cues from leaders in the hospitality industry on both building design and operations: providing the resident with what he or she wants on a daily basis. 

In a community’s dining venues, this could mean a café in the morning becomes a pub in the evening, allowing for operators to maximize square footage while still delivering a varied experience to residents. This concept also keeps the space active and vibrant throughout the day.

“It’s about the experience,” Korbas says. “As a resident, I’m going to live here all year long, so I don’t want the same experience at every meal. We need to be intuitive about how we can give a different experience so that the lifestyle is enriched. This focus on lifestyle enrichment and experience will make a sometimes difficult choice become a new adventure.”


3. Grab-and-Go Markets

Senior living dining has evolved to offer ease of use to not only residents, but also their visitors and family members. These alternatives improve the resident experience by offering a choice of venue and menu style, and are also beginning to generate new business for operators. 

“It’s modeled after a fast casual restaurant paired with refrigeration and shelving for merchandising, a limited variety of menu items ready to go or even made to order and seating for those who choose to dine in. Small grocery items available for purchase provide convenience and promote independence,” says Jan Crain, Senior Foodservice Design Consultant/Interior Designer at Direct Supply Aptura.

Operators are starting to realize that the fast casual dining venue can also be a new business channel by creating memorable dining experiences for family and guests as well as residents.

“Operators are starting to not just break even, but to make a profit on these new options,” Crain says. “This is not just an ice cream, cookie or coffee, but whole meals for dining in or to go. An adult daughter comes to visit mom, places her dinner order, and it’s ready to go in an hour when she leaves. She was probably going to buy dinner out for her family anyway, so why not take advantage of the convenience of having a delicious dinner prepared while she enjoys her visit?”


4. Technology Design

Technology in senior living has two major functions: improve the resident experience, and appeal to staff who work in the community. 

In addition, they’re considering technology that applies to other areas such as security and surveillance. Establishing a safe environment while enhancing freedom of mobility and social engagement opportunities is a must. There is a large movement in devices, and a great increase in capturing data and utilizing that data to provide greater preventative care methods, says Virginia Depies, Senior Technology Designer at Direct Supply Aptura. 

“The biggest trend is to keep people connected and mobile. We are seeing a lot of different types of wireless,” she says.

Technology design is a major undertaking for any community, particularly for older communities that were not built with infrastructure to support high-tech systems. In some cases, upgrading old infrastructure becomes more costly than putting an entirely new foundation in place, but providers today are willing to make that investment in order to remain competitive.

“If you can’t afford it today, there are still things you can do for tomorrow,” Depies says. “If you’re building a new building today and you want to support future changes, we can design a solid infrastructure to support future growth, as well as provide knowledge and expertise on future trends.”

The integration of technology design is also becoming more essential as providers gather data on residents in order to best tailor their care. Wireless sensors capture vital signs, resident activity (or lack of activity) and safety so that care providers can make decisions that are individualized, in real-time.

“The design of communities enables data sharing, allowing residents and families to be more educated and have greater interaction in their own personal care. With the use of advanced technologies, we strive to enhance lifestyle while reducing risk and increased health care costs. Smartly deployed communities are equipped for these new applications and more,” Depies says. “You may not think you can afford it, but you can’t afford not to have it,” she says. “You have to look at where you want be in the market.”


Source: “The Top 4 Senior Living Design Trends in 2016”Senior Housing News