Last week, our Senior’s housing design team attended the Leading Age National Convention in Boston, MA.
This event, held annually, is the one time each year all the largest senior housing services providers gather together to share what’s working and what’s not in Senior housing. Over the course of three days, we were able to attend classes by experts in intergenerational communities, accessibility, affordable housing, cutting edge design and wellness. This type of event tends to make me very philosophical about my job and the role of the architect in Senior housing. So here are a few of my take-aways:
- Elders want to be a part of something greater than themselves. Seniors want to, and do, make a difference in their families and communities. By maintaining their involvement in outside activity, improvements in the quality of life are noticeable, and the design and programming of our senior communities can foster this activity. One of the statistics shared during the convention shows how seniors who attend religious services four times a month live an average of 4-14 years longer. Care givers and communities that help facilitate meaning and purpose will prosper.
- Wellness is so much more than having a fitness center! This idea came up again and again. Wellness encompasses a wide array of things, more than simply having fantastic exercise equipment. Providing outdoor spaces and gardening to chef’s tables, healthy living and diet will continue to move to center stage in the housing of the future.
- Don’t be afraid to break the “rules” of senior housing. Just because we have always done it one way is not justification that it will work in the future. One such example is encouraging elders, who are able, to use the stairs in their communities for overall health. Typically, we think of keeping elders as far away from “fall risks” as possible- discouraging the use of stairs. Several designers presented examples of projects that instead make the fire stairs beautiful, specifically to encourage their use for exercise.
- Finally, the tsunami of people needing senior housing is getting nearer and nearer. Currently in the US, roughly 10,000 citizens turn 65 years old each day. As the trend continues, housing demands will dwarf what we currently have in place. This is exciting for those of us who choose to create housing for seniors, but it comes bearing much responsibility. Staying committed to mastery of our craft, learning from the past and affecting change for the future must remain our top priority.
These are changing times for our industry. We at ARRIVE are committed and focused to staying on the cutting edge of it all.
Marc Tolson, AIA, Owner/Managing Principal ARRIVE Architecture Group