As we look to the future, there are many questions about how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is going to impact senior living communities.
How will this health crisis reshape consumer priorities and delivery of services to older adults?
Are social isolation requirements and community quarantines causing people to re-evaluate senior housing options?
How do staff members feel about the added pressures they are facing and how is the new normal impacting their ability to provide services?
To start to answer some of those questions and help senior living communities prepare for the future, RLPS was one of the sponsors for a senior living survey of independent living desirability and safety spearheaded by Plante Moran Living Forward and Retirement Dynamics. This survey included independent living residents, prospective residents, and staff members in 70 communities located in 13 states. More than 5,000 survey responses were collected, along with 7,000+ write-in comments and compiled into the final report.
Download the Report
The COVID-19 Sentiment Report will help us better understand how people feel about living or working in an independent living community and how the pandemic is impacting future choices and priorities. The insights from this report will help us reshape senior living communities and services for long-term market strength and resiliency.See More COVID-19 Resources
While social distancing remains a priority, outdoor venues have provided opportunities to get outside and gather in small groups. Restaurants across the country have been able to open outdoor seating areas prior to dine-in options. Many of the current interior design trends for outdoor spaces reflect their popularity for life plan communities, 55+ housing, school and university campuses and hospitality venues.
Even when we are not experiencing a pandemic, biophilic design principles reinforce the value of spaces that meet our innate need for nature connections. The WELL Building Standard calls for its projects to have a biophilia plan to incorporate nature through environmental elements, lighting and space layout. This includes interior settings as well as porches, patios, courtyards, dining terraces, pool decks and rooftop venues that encourage people to get outdoors.
Change can be exciting, frustrating, challenging, disruptive, refreshing and overwhelming. And as illustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be abrupt and unexpected. The present challenges to creating safe workspaces, hospitality venues, educational spaces and senior living communities are daunting. Social connections and the use of shared and public spaces are confined to the parameters of social distancing guidelines. However, the renewed focus on healthy environments and infection control may also yield positive COVID-19 design impacts on commercial interior design. Our interior designers share their professional perspectives regarding COVID-19 design impacts, the current realities and anticipated lasting changes.
Over time, things wear out, expectations change, and attitudes adjust. Things will never be as they once were, and the ability to adapt to change is the key to survival. Few community sponsors have the luxury to start over, but all have the ability to reinvent. Reinvention provides an exciting opportunity for good stewardship, while breathing new life into an existing community.
As consumer demographics, product preferences and service priorities continue to evolve, senior living communities can, and must, likewise reinvent themselves to remain relevant.
“In the past, it was not unusual for many of our clients to be the only option in town, but that’s rarely the case anymore,” says Eric McRoberts, AIA. “Even in challenging economic times, providers still need to move ahead, it just might need to be more incremental.”
Whether for financial reasons, land constraints or stewardship of resources, reinvention is a viable consideration. If the existing infrastructure is a good fit for your program goals, substantial value can be gained from building re-use.
As many of us have become telecommuters, at least for the time being, we are taking a look at how flipping the recent Resimercial Design trend could be beneficial to our productivity and well-being. We asked a few of our interior designers to suggest some commercial office design features that could be applied to our home workspaces.
Andy Allwine, AIA, recently attended the 14th annual North America Passive House Conference, sponsored by Passive House Institute US. The conference, titled “The Profitable Blueprint for ZERO,” included pre-conference education sessions, keynote talks and two days of education sessions all centered on passive building techniques, detailing and marketing, building science, carbon neutrality and safe building materials. We asked Andy about some of his take-aways from this conference.
What is a Passive House?
A passive house is a building with an airtight, well-ventilated, highly thermally insulated enclosure that reduces the external loads on the building and allows for a smaller, more efficient mechanical system. These factors also happen to make for a more durable building that requires less maintenance, provides a higher degree of health and comfort for occupants and helps mitigate the effects of climate change through radically reduced energy consumption and global warming potential. Almost any building type, use, size, and climate region can achieve passive house standards, including retrofit conditions. In my option, almost all of our projects would be worthy candidates to apply this standard.
According to the Passive House Institute, the term passive house is something of a misnomer as the approach is increasingly being applied to multifamily apartment buildings and large scale commercial buildings as well. As a result, the term passive building is gradually coming into more common usage, as it’s a more accurate term than passive house.
As a firm that provides commercial interior design, the RLPS Interiors team must consider not only aesthetic appeal, but also ergonomics, health, safety, and accessibility for our clients’ spaces. Another important, but sometimes overlooked, consideration is acknowledging a sense of place—the climate, culture, history and traditions of the locale where the space is located. This is certainly the case for hospitality venues or senior living communities, but also holds true for commercial offices, cultural, municipal and healthcare settings. Highlighting and incorporating the physical and social qualities of a specific region into the interior design or remodel creates a sense of authenticity and resonates with those using the space.
Aesthetic appeal is obviously an important component of interior finishes such as flooring. However, there are a myriad of other factors required to provide more than just a positive first impression. As interior designers, we are constantly researching products and reviewing quality of construction, durability, and environmental impacts. We consider conversations with our clients regarding maintenance procedures and goals to be crucial for selecting the most appropriate product for each application.
Enduring appeal requires not only quality materials and manufacturing, but also proper maintenance for each flooring type.
Senior wellness is defined by more than just physical health. As humans, we are social by nature, seeking ongoing opportunities to remain connected to people and places around us. Wellness programming that engages both the physical and mental elements of older adults’ well-being presents creative opportunities for today’s senior living communities.
Seniors may experience loneliness due to the loss of a spouse or partner, or distance from family and friends. While senior living wellness programs offer ample opportunities for social and emotional engagement, older adults can also benefit from opportunities that transcend community boundaries.
Wellness programming that exposes residents to external community connections can prevent isolation and loneliness and give older adults a sense of purpose. Community partnerships that provide opportunities for intergenerational interaction through the community’s own facilities, educational outreach, or other public programs not only expand social connections, but also engage residents’ unending desire to learn.
As a result, senior living communities are creating wellness programs that facilitate resident experiences both on and off campus, and also allow non-residents to enjoy programs available within a senior living community.
Performance centers integrated within a campus or community center can help residents fulfill a need for intellectual and social stimulation. Art exhibitions, concerts, staged productions, and other events that are opened to the public elevate the community’s value for all guests. This is a powerful marketing tool, demonstrating a vibrant and active community lifestyle for non-residents to see.
Pools and natatoriums are often considered basic physical wellness components, but don’t need to be limited exclusively to resident use. Like a performing arts center, opening a pool or natatorium to the greater community can build strong public partnerships with local groups and educational institutions. Allowing swim teams or not-for-profit groups to use the facility for competition or educational programs creates intergenerational opportunities for residents and community members alike. Resident volunteers can participate as hospitality hosts, timing officials, swim meet marshals or in other capacities. A campus may also allow employees and community members to register for pool memberships that permit access to the facility during set hours.
Intellectual curiosity and educational exploration are common themes, as most senior living residents maintain their love of learning well into older age. Lifelong learning opportunities on and off campus are an increasingly popular program offering among seniors. Pursuing educational or informational courses can help older adults refresh early life experiences, learn new skills, and understand distant cultures while interacting with others who share common interests.
The key to life-long well-being lies in both physical and cognitive exercise. Senior living wellness programs need not be limited to campus residents alone. Operators who can open wellness programming to staff, not-for-profit groups, and others from the greater community create a win-win for campus residents and the general public alike.
For more about how wellness is evolving in the senior living arena, read our latest case study, Wellness in Independent Living, available through the Wellness resource page.
To learn how Wellness might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.