“We’re doing less traditional, more transitional design,” says LuAnn Thoma-Holec, ASID, principal owner of Mesa, Ariz.-based Thoma-Holec Design, LLC. “We still make it feel like home, but it’s edgier and has cleaner lines than what we did 10 to 15 years ago.” Color choices can be tricky, considering that seniors have difficulty seeing blues and greens, so Thoma-Holec tends to use contrasting vibrant, warm colors. She selectively uses trendy hues on low-cost items such as wall colors, fabrics and pillows. “It’s not easy for the communities to remodel on a regular basis, so it’s important to use colors that have longevity and won’t appear dated in a short amount of time.”
These communities aren’t solely aimed at appealing to residents—they’re also marketed to the entire family. Doing so requires programming multigenerational activity areas that work just as much for the residents as they do for visiting children and grandchildren. Incorporating areas for spiritual activities such as a chapel, and wellness and fitness areas with tai chi, spa and massage therapy are just some examples, suggests Adrienne Akin Faulkner, RID, LEED GA, IIDA, ASID, founder of Faulkner Design Group in Dallas, Texas. Faulkner says these modern resort-inspired leisure areas are included because “baby boomers understand it.”
Still, these spaces have to be flexible. Dining rooms in particular require enough space for traffic and mobility devices. “We try to find architectural design solutions that create adequate ‘parking’ space for a mobility device to be in proximity to the owner, but also can be tucked under or articulated into the overall design, so you don’t have walkers in the middle of the dining room,” says Faulkner.
Connecting these various destination areas is also important. Case in point: Atria Tamalpais Creek in Novato, Calif. previously had a circuitous path leading to multiple buildings, making it unwelcoming, but breaking it down into several destination areas with strategic programming made it work. The redesign includes the smart use of indoor and outdoor spaces that puts related activities side by side.
“Wherever possible, because it’s in California, there are a lot of outdoor terraces and patios adjacent to the living spaces,” says Kimberly Frank, interior design principal with GGLO in Seattle, Wash. For example, a community bistro where cooking demonstrations take place is attached to an outdoor terrace that’s used for barbecues. Some patio walls are at hip height so they can double as seating. “They were designed to create intimacy in smaller areas, and rooms outside of rooms.”