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Senior Living Design Trends to Leave Behind in 2018

In senior living, it’s inevitable that some architecture and design features go from hot to not. Resident preferences change, care practices evolve, technology advances, and the way senior housing buildings look and feel has to keep up.

So, heading into 2018, providers might want to reconsider if they think that having a bistro will set them apart, and they should be wary about memory care “villages” with fake storefronts. At least, that’s according to a few architects and designers who recently spoke with Senior Housing News, to identify trends that they think have become stale. They also highlighted some trends that are on the money—click here to read about what’s hot in 2018.

Here’s what they say to avoid or re-think:

While perhaps not stale but rather overused and less understood, is the household design approach to health care residences. Designers are simply plopping down a “nursing home” with fewer residents without fully understanding the benefits of the small house approach to operations, the need to modify the care program approach. Not all household designs serve to increase the dignity and independence of residents.

Granted, a bad household design is probably much better than a traditional design approach, but designers, and providers, need to fully understand the benefits of household approach to design and care provision and implement them appropriately. —Jeff Anderzhon, Senior Planner/Design Architect, Eppstein Uhen Architects

Too many large common spaces and not enough intimate spaces. In the past few years, design in dining venues has evolved beautifully to recognize that one size does not fit all. Now many properties offer a wide range of choices, including “take-out” and “short-order,” in addition to traditional dining room venues. It is time to apply this same principle to other common spaces within the community.

Many communities offer a preponderance of large common space rooms and very few small, private spaces for more intimate gatherings, yet there is a need for places where small groups of friends can gather together in privacy. When residents want to play cards with a few friends, have snacks with visiting church pals, or watch a football game with a few buddies, they don’t want to always be observed by other residents passing by. This is what often happens when people are forced to have their small group activities in a corner of a larger community room or library. More communities could include more small, cozy spaces such as one or two small enclosed dens with little kitchenettes where four or five people could be together. —Elisabeth Borden, Principal, The Highland Group

Stale trends include:

Simulated reality in memory care such as fake porches, painted ceiling skies, pretend storefronts.

We’ve noticed in several recent projects for life plan communities that free-standing cottages are becoming less appealing. This is from communities who have little available land for repositioning and from prospective residents—with average age of new residents 78-84, people prefer to be connected to the commons and other buildings.

Formal dress in dining and formal dining generally. Instead, +85% of project have casual dining menus.

Long-term care is being replaced by assisted living with higher care programs. —Dan Cinelli, Managing Principal and Board Director, and other principals, Perkins Eastman

Bistros. Of COURSE you have a bistro! Suggestion: Let’s all get out more, and bring back some of the amazing, innovative and WOW aspects of dining that we are seeing. Think “foodie.” Blow up your bistros and start over.

Wellness centers (gasp!). They seem to have made their way into every topic of expansion and renovation. That’s fine if your current fitness center is a dump, but like bistros, every community has one and they are all beginning to look alike. Where do I think they should head? Into smaller, well-appointed workout spaces where residents can receive individualized coaching and training in lieu of the wide open “gym class” or 24-Hour Fitness formats conspicuously more suitable for a younger crowd. I may be off on this one, but in wellness centers, bigger is not better – private and more personal attention is. We’ll see. —David Dillard, Principal, D2 Architecture

As the boomers begin to enter senior living communities I think the traditional style of architecture will get stale for them. They went from watching a black and white tube television to streaming videos on giant flat screens. They’ll want to live in a community that’s fresh and contemporary, not a place that their grandmother might have lived in. —Manny Gonzalez, Principal, KTGY Architecture + Planning

Cafeteria style dining and buffets are rapidly decreasing. –Jim Hudgins, President, THW Design

Side by side companion rooms are being replaced by private rooms in nursing homes and post-acute care –Bill Davis, Senior Project Manager, THW Design

Tim Mullaney
Senior Housing News