Perhaps nowhere else does design make more of an impact than in healthcare spaces, particularly in environments for the aging population.
J+J Flooring Group brought together a select group of designers to discuss exactly that during their second annual Senior Living Design Symposium in Santa Fe, N.M., earlier this year. Thirteen top designers were corralled together for a weekend in May and lassoed up by industry expert Sara Marberry (co-founder of the Center for Health Design). This think tank was also joined by guest speakers gerontologist Dr. Anne Simpson from the University of New Mexico, and I&S columnist Jane Rhode (see her latest piece on page 94 of this issue).
Many ideas and experiences were shared among the group, but more importantly, results were achieved. Out of this exclusive gathering, four trends were identified in the sector and J+J is offering them up to the majority. The following are four movements that can help you craft interiors for seniors who intend to lead active, mobile lifestyles for many years to come. We asked Marberry to weigh in on each to get some clarity and perspective.
contemporary and transitional interiors
Palettes are moving to more modern colors and finishes, but not for the reasons you might think. Designs for senior living communities are now being driven by the secondary customer: the child of the resident.
Marberry: “Younger Boomers are helping their parents choose a place to live—and some are staying in senior living facilities for short-term rehab after elective surgeries. They want a W Hotel type of environment in these facilities. But not everyone, particularly those in rural areas, can relate to an urbane, cosmopolitan lifestyle. So it is important to know the customer!”
Customization is the name of the game as (for better or worse) the allure of design continues to sweep the general public thanks to the easy access provided by networks like HGTV and social media channels like Pinterest. Provide options that make clients feel empowered and satisfied that their space is all their own.
Marberry: “The increased popularity of reality TV for home improvement has created an interesting dilemma for senior living designers. Clients expect projects to be done cheaper and faster. But the idea that beautiful living spaces can be easily created with small budgets in a short timespan does not really work for senior living. Also, many of the materials and furnishings used on reality TV projects are not appropriate for senior living environments. By ‘dumbing down’ the planning and design process, reality TV has also put additional pressure on senior living designers to educate and inform clients—and have the credentials to back up their expertise.”
Back to one, as more contemporary furnishings and finishings are utilized, an increased use of tinted neutrals and classic shades of ivory are also on the rise. These colors provide a clean, minimalist appeal.
Marberry: “The Age of Beige is over. Warmer shades of grey have found their way into senior living environments, supporting a wider variety of natural colors within a neutral palette. But remember, there are regional differences for color preferences. In the Southwest, people like brighter tones; in the Mid-Atlantic, blue dominates. Research has also shown that the aging eye responds better to warmer colors.
senior living model evolution
“Active aging” will be an ongoing driver in this new age of long-term living. But how does that translate into the interior design of the next generation of senior living communities? It goes far beyond just integrating more activity and exercise spaces.
Marberry: “As seniors live longer and are more active, the traditional senior living community model is slowly evolving. No doubt, the CCRC model still works for many. But there are some emerging models that offer alternatives, such as integrating seniors as a sub-community onto college campuses and multi-family residential housing—‘move-downs’ for seniors who want to downsize but are still healthy and mobile. Creative design and planning solutions will be needed to make these and any other new models successful. There is also an opportunity for designers to work with seniors to renovate and adapt their homes for aging in place.”