Russ Garber

by Russ Garber

Director - Senior Living Studio

Senior Living Facilities Responding to the Greying Workforce With More Vibrancy and Dynamic Design

  • APRIL 27, 2021
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Over 20 percent of the population is comprised of baby boomers getting ready to retire, and they are different from any generation that has retired before them.Russ Garber Presenting

Baby boomers are planning ahead with expectations that surpass the normal standard for living situations. In fact, the future of senior living facilities looks more vibrant than ever.

This generation is marked by liveliness and Melissa Gong Mitchell of the Global Coalition on Ageing says, “the WHO and the UN have declared 2020 to 2030 the decade of healthy aging."

This said, it is pivotal that senior living facilities respond accordingly to align with their wants and needs.

The top 4 trends inside Senior Living spaces include vibrancy, joy, refocus on health, and the 4th space.

Senior Living Outdoor PatioTrend 1: Rooted in Healthy Living
Since the pandemic, health has become a top priority for consumers. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that,“after months of social distancing, consumers’ approach to fitness and overall wellness may be permanently altered.”

This said, the pandemic, in a way, was a catalyst for the reset and refocus on healthy living. Specifically, senior living facilities are taking health precautions seriously to promote health and well-being, while avoiding any chances of being shut down.

Healthy living starts with reinventing the built environment in a way that stimulates those inside these facilities. This includes built spaces that are rooted in keeping seniors healthy and advancing the quality of life.

Examples of types of spaces in senior living facilities include:

  • Educational rooms for seminars and learning opportunities
  • Demonstration kitchens to build culinary skills
  • Exam rooms to keep up with physical and mental health

Along with the built environment, there is an opportunity to include operational incentives for those in senior living facilities if they take part in healthy activities. Moreover, this idea could look like a discount on rent if one participates in X amount of healthy activities a week.

Trend 2: 4th Space
The idea of a 4th space is a place where community members gather, and amenities are offered. This could be anything from retail options to wellness opportunities. The overarching idea behind the 4th space is to capitalize on gaps in company assets, and offer options for a certain community.Senior Living Lobby Area

The 4th space concept engages the outside community and brings new life into senior living communities. Simply, this means bringing the outside, inside in a safe way.

4th spaces also serve as a way to combat loneliness and social isolation. According to the CDC, “Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.”

By adding a 4th space, it can create an option for residents to engage in social interaction not only with those inside the community, but also those who are in the outside community. An example of this could be a fitness instructor utilizing an open space in a senior living facility to teach stretching exercises to residents in the senior living communities. This mitigates social isolation factors by adding variety to the built space.

Trend 3: Joy Based Design
In a recent project, the senior living studio envisioned communities that uphold social connectedness and purpose for those in senior living facilities. While brainstorming and workshopping, the word “joy” was a continual theme.Senior Living Design Materials

M+A Architects believes in designing based on living a purposeful, joyful life. This might look like organic colors and a bright design. This said, we have the opportunity to reinvent senior living facilities in small but lasting ways.

New, “out of the box,” ways of brightening spaces though unexpected shapes, colors, and design can bring surprise, happiness, and better health to residents.

Trend 4: Small House, Big Design
The pandemic inflicted major isolation and social distancing in senior living communities. This meant that senior living facilities paused normal activities, visits from loved ones, and congregate functions in hopes to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, this type of operation is difficult to sustain, and with new knowledge of health issues being related to isolation, some senior living facilities are trending towards small house design.Senior Living Private Unit

What is small house design?

  • Private units 
  • Access to outdoors
  • A neighborhood feel
  • More daylight
  • Private balconies 
  • Touchless technology

Even before the pandemic, the small-house trend was gaining steam, especially in memory care design. We are seeing more assisted living providers embracing this idea as they try to lessen the burden of isolation if another serious infectious disease outbreak occurred.

Overall, autonomous small house design functions best for senior living residents who value private living while still being able to socialize with neighbors, family, and friends. Also, private units have the added benefit of being able to social distance if the need arises. This said, small house design can operate properly no matter the circumstance.

Russ Garber

by Russ Garber

Director - Senior Living Studio

With three decades in architecture and design, and nearly fifteen years dedicated to Senior Living, Russ Garber has built a reputation, and made a much-deserved name for himself, as one of the most nationally recognized Senior Living design leaders in the country.