It is unclear when or how this pandemic of Covid-19 will finally end. The unique pressure of this disease is likely to affect the way older people live in communities in the next few years.
Advanced life service providers across the United States are fundamentally changing their normal operations to prevent or limit the popularity of Covid-19. For example, they are canceling group activities and public dining, and prefer indoor entertainment and take-out dining. At the same time, service providers rely on technology to help people overcome the loneliness of isolation. They are looking for new ways to connect residents with family members and medical personnel remotely. Future residential communities for the elderly will take these conditions into account during design and provide providers with ways to support these technologies and minimize future disruptions.
While providing housing for community residents on a large scale, you can protect them and give them peace of mind. At the same time, operators who have started to rely on socialization to maintain the vitality and fullness of the community also pay the price. Future designs will seek solutions to ensure maximum interaction with the outside world, even in isolation.
David Dillard, head of D2 Architecture, told Advanced Housing News that the challenge for senior residential architects and designers wouldn’t be to make such adjustments without unnecessary institutional layout. That is a “downgrade” for the industry. However, there are already smaller, more intimate advanced housing models that can achieve this goal admirably.
Although Covid-19 may be a pandemic, the design experience gained at this stage may help the industry to deal with more common challenges through infection control protocols, according to Jeff Anderzhon, senior planner and design architect at Eppstein Uhen Architect in Milwaukee.
Designing For Tech
Another power that shapes architects to think about the way older people live in communities is technology. The embrace of technology by elderly life providers is not a new trend. Thanks to Covid-19, it is changing and accelerating.
For example, many residents are using tools like Skype or Zoom to keep in touch with friends, family members, and even medical professionals. The use of such services may only increase in the future. It will require a strong technical infrastructure in the community.
Advanced life providers may also carefully study techniques that allow residents to navigate the community without having to press buttons or grab handles. That can be done through motion controls or voice controls already used in the advanced lifestyle industry (such as those seen in Amazon’s Alexa products).
Anderzhon said that future elderly living communities could also use individual “clean rooms” to facilitate visiting in person. According to this concept, residents will meet relatives or friends in two adjacent rooms, which are separated by glass partitions, and have intercom systems and even mobile phones. Then, the staff will disinfect the room after each use.
Some providers are already trying this solution. Jeramy Ragsdale, the founder of Thrive Senior Living, and his father conceived and built a “transparent connection panel,” which includes a glass barrier and a wireless phone on each side.
At the same time, due to Covid-19, the community may increase investment in telemedicine and other methods to enable residents to access their healthcare practitioners remotely. The provider may have a dedicated telemedicine room or even a cart with video conferencing technology that gets used throughout the community.
To avoid damage to the entire community in the future, more providers may choose to adopt a design that emphasizes the utilization of separated communities. Therefore, allowing residents can socialize, dine together and live in a smaller group of people. For example, cities with scattered communities or other smaller campuses can work well. Dillard said that if an epidemic or pandemic occurs in the future, these areas get blocked without bringing the entire community to a standstill.
When Perkins Eastman released its forward-looking “clean slate project” in 2019, the goal was to explore the destructive power that may shape the future of high-end life industries. Dan Cinelli, head of Perkins Eastman, said that “technology, the preferences of the baby boom generation, and climate-induced natural disasters continue to flow in. However, it has not yet caused a global pandemic.” However, the destructive nature of this epidemic is currently telling people in the industry that the size or efficiency of high-end housing is not always a good thing.
Sinelli said there is still a place on the same campus that can accommodate tens or even hundreds of residents. However, the hard lessons that have been learned during this time may prompt providers to think about designing facilities to accommodate residents into smaller independent communities.
Perkins Eastman (Perkins Eastman), some projects adopted this design. A recent example is the expansion of the greenhouse in the Jewish senior life in Rochester, New York. The project shines in the concept of a small community, dividing residents in 12-unit houses into decentralized dining, private bathrooms and rooms, and other functions that help infection control protocols.
But Dillard warned that when designing potential future isolation areas, don’t take an overly harsh approach. He worries that in preparing for another possible 100-year pandemic, this industry could undo from senior institutional communities from years of “healthy development.”
As for the size of the living space itself, it will vary from market to market. Although it is unclear whether future residents will need larger housing due to the pandemic, they may be interested in housing. That would be suitable for shelter and has plenty of outdoor activities, according to Perkins Eastman senior life director.
There may be more space in the community that can be used as temporary accommodation for employees.
Architects and designers can also choose to use new materials that are antibacterial or easy to clean. In the future, suppliers will seek to make doors, handrails, cabinets, countertops, accessories, furniture, and floors more resistant to viruses and bacteria like the new Covid-19.
Ann Yearwood, an assistant and interior designer at STG Design in Austin, Texas, said products are already available to make countertops and floors easier to clean. In some cases, more resistant to bacteria.
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