Look Up…. A Series on Innovation for the Resident
This series of business briefs entitled ‘Look Up,’ is intended to highlight ways that the industry is changing, allowing operators to direct time and attention back towards their residents and staff, looking at these groups through the lens of innovation, creativity and advocacy.
The ‘Look Up’ series is not intended to highlight specific companies or service providers but areas of focus in order to be a resource and account of current and upcoming trends. It is also intended to layout ways that our communities can focus on those things that can really drive change for the seniors we serve. This series is also not intended to directly spotlight companies that can be found on Senior GuidePost, yet many of the trends discussed are pioneered by these companies.
Design & Development Focus
Senior living providers are paying particular attention to certain trends over the last decade, including a focus on natural light and providing a variety of innovative common space options for residents. While we believe that this trend will continue, it remains to be seen how owners will respond to rising interest rates, and the impact of adding additional common spaces has on the overall cost of capital of a senior living community. It is our hope that the competitive landscape will continue to drive physical innovation, even in the face of future higher cost of capital. A recent design focus trend that has seen dramatic variations is the welcoming of outside groups into a senior community. Usually more likely available in larger communities, amenities geared towards neighbors, third party healthcare providers and unrelated organizations help to provide a vibrancy within communities that is difficult to create without these groups.
• A variety of meeting spaces allowing groups like local home owners associations, church meetings and boy scout troups;
• Fitness spaces are no longer designed exclusively for a resident to exercise alone or with a physical therapist, but also to incorporate local providers like local yoga studios that want to provide classes within the community;
• Communities are increasingly designing space intended specifically for third party healthcare providers, allowing physicians, home health teams and hospice companies to have a “home base” while serving their residents and their families. This welcoming of providers helps to ensure a better quality of life for residents through improved communication between the healthcare industry and the in-community staff;
• An ever-present challenge in senior housing, especially for communities further along the acuity spectrum, is designing space that truly welcomes residents’ families in the community to be active participants. It is almost a given that high speed internet throughout the building is available for residents to encourage virtual interaction with families, but also to provide data to younger visitors during their visit. The best practices incorporate well designed spaces with a robust programming effort surrounding these spaces that encourages families to engage around these opportunities. For example, a terrifically designed art studio remains empty unless the community has engaged an outside artist that provides regular family art lessons. Design teams are increasingly approaching these outside parties to engage them early in the design process to ensure a consistent and repeatable experience for both the provider but, more importantly, for the resident. As mentioned above, engaging outside parties during the design process is a positive first step in the process, that has to be followed up by consistent delivery of programming surrounding the spaces and a true commitment by executive leadership to fund these programs.
Early adoption of smart home technology in senior housing will allow communities to customize spaces for each resident, improving resident satisfaction by maintaining independence and control. Less common, yet a viable opportunity for innovative providers, is the challenge of implementing design features that continue to promote independence and replicate earlier stages of life while maintaining the safety and security that is a primary purpose of senior housing.
True innovation has made it to senior living design, and the future is bright for our residents as senior living continues to become a mainstream segment for architects and designers. As the daily efforts of senior living management continue to be transitioned to technology, true creatives will emerge from the weeds and continue to ‘Look up.’