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Senior Living Transformed: A Designer’s 40-year Career Reflection

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This is part one of a three-part series. Stay tuned for future installments.

Quite often, looking back reminds us of how far we’ve come. As I reflect upon forty-plus years in this profession, a large part of which has been dedicated to senior living environments, I find this observation accurate.

I began my career in the early 1980s. At that time, there were few options for older adults as they aged and could no longer live independently due to their increasing healthcare needs. Either you were in a hospital or a nursing home. Some were fortunate enough to be cared for or taken in by relatives. Depending on individual family dynamics, this scenario could be a burden or a blessing.

My grandmother fully expected to live with her only child, my mother, just as she had taken in her mother many years before. This was never to be, and the prospect of going to a nursing home horrified my grandmother. Who could blame her? With very few exceptions, the nursing homes of the day were far from pleasant.

The typical skilled nursing environment consisted of semi-private rooms with little privacy. If there was a toilet within the room, it was not accessible. ADA had just become code, and no existing building was compliant. Most often, toileting and bathing were centralized, as were large “cafeteria-style” dining rooms. Resident rooms were arranged along long, double-loaded corridors radiating out from central nurses’ stations. The only social spaces were day rooms, typically at the ends of these long, dark corridors.

There was little to no separation of elderly residents from those with dementia and even milder forms of mental illness. As a result, the atmosphere was often chaotic or upsetting for residents and visiting family members. As such, families were often loathing to visit very often. Unpleasant odors, noise, and guilt only added to their reluctance to spend time with their loved ones. Fortunately, this was about to change.

By the early 1990s, I had gained nearly ten years of design experience. I found myself on the brink of what would become a widespread culture change in living environments and how we, as a society, care for our seniors.

In the following two parts of this series, I will discuss this change and what I see as the opportunities and challenges for the future of senior living communities.

Jeff Bogart is a senior interior designer and principal at EUA. After over forty years at the firm, he is retiring in 2023.

He’s been a mentor and friend to countless colleagues.

“Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Jeff, and I am so thankful for the opportunity,” said Jordyn Northrop, a project specialist in the living studio. “He has infinite knowledge while also being an eloquent presenter. Jeff has taught me how to articulate and execute design concepts for both interior and exterior design. He has been a great mentor sharing his knowledge while also being there to listen.” 

Thank you, Jeff, and best wishes in your retirement!

Jeffrey J. Bogart, ASID
Senior Interior Designer : Principal

Jeffrey Bogart is a Senior Interior Designer and Principal with EUA in the Milwaukee office for the Living Environments Studio. As a creative designer, Jeff comes up with new innovative design ideas, enriching people's lives through unique designs to create comfortable and secure living environments.