I’m one of the drafters at RLPS. We’re the people who document all of the details of constructing a building – how all of the individual pieces go together. Yes, we use state-of-the-art 3D modeling software to design each building, but we still “draw” a lot of the details individually – the digital equivalent of putting pencil to paper.
What is the building envelope?
One aspect of building design that we spend a lot of time detailing is the building “envelope”, the outer layers of the building that keep the elements out and keep the interior comfortable. The envelope performs those duties by managing and controlling heat transfer, rain and snow, water vapor and air movement.
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
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.
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.
Hybrid homes™ evolved as a new senior housing model that enabled providers to incrementally add independent housing with more flexible financing options and the potential for a la carte service offerings with a higher density footprint than stand-alone cottages. This model appeals to consumers for its outdoor connections, emphasis on natural light and appealing amenities including covered parking.
No two hybrid home models are alike. Each community puts its own spin on the right mix and style of individual units, appropriate scale, regional building materials and optimal layout. This ongoing evolution has led to the development of a new generation of hybrids based on diverse operator needs and consumer demands.
The original hybrid homes were stand-alone buildings, often constructed in pairs, but distinct from the main community center. Typically marketed to more active adults who wanted to maintain their independent lifestyle, the hybrids were separated from campus amenities. To counteract the potential isolation of this approach and strengthen community connections, many of the Hybrid 2.0 models provide covered walkway connections back to the community center.
These new Hybrid 2.0 models marry the two things the younger senior demographic values most: appealing private residences and opt-in socialization. Socialization is something baby boomers view as a choice. Want to share a meal? Invite neighbors over to your kitchen. Want to enjoy a quiet summer evening without interruption? Head to your balcony, deliberately oriented on the corner to be as far from chatty neighbors as possible.
Hybrid homes offer both at the same time—corner units for maximum privacy, yet easy access to community amenities when social interaction is desired. For example, at The Langford at College Station, Texas, we worked with the owner to develop a hybrid home concept that connects to the campus clubhouse building via interior walkways, making it easy for these independent living residents to join in campus activities.
Covered Parking Options
Another Hybrid 2.0 feature is taking a different approach to the covered parking aspect of hybrid homes. At Sycamore Square in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, the owner endorsed an adjusted parking design with individual garages, each with its own door, eliminating the need for a full concrete-and-steel floor above the parking level. This market-friendly feature helped to lower the overall construction cost.
Multiple Price Points
New housing for Oakleaf Village in Toledo, Ohio needed to meet consumer expectations for abundant daylight, open floor plans and covered parking while maintaining affordability for older adults in this Midwestern working class area. The design result is two parallel hybrid home apartment buildings with a connected pavilion between them. These three buildings form The Crescent, a micro-community for active seniors that is securing HUD financing to provide affordable rental housing.
The variety of hybrid home options is expected to continue to expand as providers find new ways to customize the model to meet their available property constraints, consumer expectations, individual financial needs and market realities.
To learn more about hybrid homes and their potential for your senior living community, read our latest case study, Hybrid Homes: Evolution in Independent Living available through our Hybrid Homes resource page.
To learn how Hybrid 2.0 Homes might fit your development needs, please Contact Us for more information.
Emerging ideas in architecture and interior design are creating new models of independent living, pushed by baby boomer seniors who don’t want to sacrifice their lifestyles and love of outdoor spaces to move into a senior living community. One design solution that has been popping up at communities across the county is the hybrid homes™—built to integrate the benefits of cottage homes and apartment living.
Hybrid homes look and feel more like condo living, providing lots of daylight, plenty of storage space—and garage parking while also incorporating opportunities for social interaction with common amenity spaces. Creative layouts avoid the long interior corridors common in apartments while allowing for units that can range from a modest 800 sq. ft. to 2,300 sq. ft., a size that rivals some standalone homes.
The hybrid model is a little bit different for each community, but these homes are all about the corner layout with expanded views, abundant natural light and private outdoor space.
For example, at Givens Estates Creekside Apartments in Asheville, North Carolina, we worked with the owner to develop hybrid homes based on four units per floor, giving every unit a corner orientation. A central lobby on each floor gives residents a place to meet and socialize. Units include amenities more commonly found in upscale condos, including nine foot ceilings, dens, generous balconies and walk-in closets.
Senior living operators love the hybrid home model as much as residents do, primarily because hybrid home buildings can be constructed one at a time and then filled before beginning construction on the next one, often allowing operators to skip the costly bond financing involved in larger-scale projects like apartments. The challenge, operators say, is introducing a new style of living to consumers who think they should choose apartments or patio homes simply because those are the independent living models they’ve seen before and what their parents may have had. But at many Life Plan Communities, hybrid homes are becoming the fastest-selling model in the portfolio. Marketing teams report that once people see the finished product, they understand the difference. The lack of long corridors and the views are typically the features that sell the hybrid home concept.
The model is constantly evolving, especially as designers seek ways to make the construction more affordable in rural areas with lower housing values. The ability to adapt the architectural design to the specific needs, vernacular and marketing demands of each community is driving its appeal to both operators and consumers.
Increasingly, hybrid homes are a key driver for attracting younger residents. Average ages for people moving into hybrid homes have been 76 to 81 with anywhere from half to three quarters of the units being occupied by couples. Hybrids offer baby boomers the lifestyle options that many demand and give operators flexibility to build incrementally with more favorable financing options.
For more about hybrid homes and their potential for your senior living community, read our latest case study, Hybrid Homes: Evolution in Independent Living, available through the Hybrid Homes resource page.
To learn how Hybrid Homes might fit your development needs, Contact Us today for more information.
The mindful combination of technology and design keeps residents connected to their social networks while fostering independence in senior living.
Nearly 20% of Americans age 62–91 report feeling lonely frequently. – Connect2Affect report
It’s well documented that people who feel lonely are at greater health risk both physically and emotionally. Of the primary contributing factors to isolation, many are directly related to growing older, including relocation to a care setting, the death of older friends and family, the loss of hearing or vision and the decline of cognitive function and/or mobility. Together these create a perfect storm for older adults struggling to maintain a sense of social and community connectedness.
“Loneliness has been associated with increased mortality and a range of adverse health outcomes that are both prevalent and costly in older age,” notes a 2017 Connect2Affect report funded by the AARP Foundation. “Loneliness, however, is often a hidden problem. It has few clear outward indicators, some degree of stigma attached, and no proven solutions beyond conventional wisdom about trying to make friends and find meaningful pursuits and activities.”
Combatting loneliness is not just about interacting socially or participating in activities. The type of social connection matters, too, the study authors note. Healthy social connection works to raise a person’s self-esteem and sense of belonging while fostering emotional caring and the sense of purpose.
While engaging in activities and making new friends both have value, the ability to maintain connection with already-familiar relationships is just as vital, notes a 2018 literature review published in BMC Geriatrics.
Several of the studies reviewed touted the merits of technology-based connectivity that goes beyond email and telephone. Tools such as video-conferencing and online groups can bridge the gaps between static communication and in-person interactions. Other key interventions to combat loneliness include learning new things (courses, workshops, skills classes) and participating in purposeful activities (charities, volunteer work creating meaningful things to donate).
The IQ Home incorporates sophisticated technology into the living spaces, so friends, activities and community news are just a click away. Through a partnership with K4Connect, residents stay informed of campus happenings through a personalized portal, share video calls with grandchildren, participate in social media groups online and search for information whenever they wish.
Integrated connectivity for tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices helps create a sense of ubiquitous connection to anything they wish to access—making a resident’s own home a central hub for the “Internet of Things.”
The best ways to maintain healthy social connectivity are to stay in regular contact with existing family and friends, nurture family relationships to gain a sense of family support and inclusion and stay connected to the local community, whether it is by attending religious services, joining a community organization or participating in community events with family and friends.
IQ Homes put powerful technology tools in residents’ hands in a user-friendly form, giving them the ability to reach out and stay socially connected—all while supporting success in the independent lifestyle they have chosen.
To learn more about the IQ Home and its features for keeping residents connected to their friends and family, visit our IQ Homes Resource Page to download the free ebook, IQ Home: Purpose-Driven Technology Keeps Residents Connected.
Mindful design focuses on preventing falls, reducing hospitalizations and championing confidence in aging independently
On an annual basis, more than one in four older adults will fall, and it’s the top reason for hospitalization in those age 65+. It’s also one of the top reasons why seniors have to leave their homes and enter assisted living. Interior and architectural design play key roles in creating a home environment that is safe, aesthetically pleasing and adaptable as the resident’s needs change.
For the IQ Homes at Masonic Villages at Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, RLPS Architects designed a new model of independent living that fuses mindful design with transparent technology to tackle the top safety concerns of older residents.
Reducing Falls Risk
Environmental hazards—from raised doorway thresholds and poorly designed lighting to storage areas that force residents to reach too high for an item—are key contributors to falls, notes a 2018 study in Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD). “The current study provides empirical evidence of the link between environmental hazards and older adults’ falling, which is useful for developing effective fall intervention design strategies.”
Smart lighting design gets seniors from dawn to dusk without the dangers of too-dim or too-bright lighting. Sophisticated sensor technology monitors for dangerous patterns, including when a resident has been out of bed too long at night, possibly from a fall. Zero-threshold entryways eliminate tripping hazards and enable easy use of wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
The most popular place for a fall in the home isn’t the staircase, it’s the bathroom. Falls that occur in or near the bathroom have a higher correlation with hospitalization than falls in other areas of the home, the HERD study notes. Zero-threshold flooring, roll-in showers, grab bars and height-adjustable fixtures provide safer toileting and showering without introducing an institutional feel.
Clearing the Air
Breathing difficulties (COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, pulmonary edema and others) are among the top 10 reasons older adults seek treatment in an emergency room.
Asthma is a special challenge for older adults, since even a mild episode can cause dangerous shortness of breath and the risk of respiratory failure, notes the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The treatment of asthma in seniors also presents difficulties, as steroid-based medications can cause severe side effects in older adults or interact with other medications prescribed for common geriatric conditions.
Controlling air quality within the home can reduce flare-ups from pollen, pollution and other irritants, lessening the chance of a breathing emergency and reducing the need for intervention medications. The IQ Home’s deliberate inclusion of sophisticated air filtering technology is the cornerstone of new research in how filtration impacts the reduction of hospitalizations and medication interventions due to breathing issues.
Having a sense of safety and control over the home environment is a major part of living independently. Part of it is autonomy: Not having to ask for assistance to reach something, cook something or move from room to room. But much also relies on a sense of safety, knowing that technology and mobile access are working together to allow residents to control security lighting, door locks and garage doors with one click from a handheld device.
Statistics show the overwhelming majority of older adults would prefer to age independently in a home setting. With mindful design, the IQ Home provides the safety, accessibility and confidence residents cherish while preserving their ability to live the way they wish.
To learn more about the IQ Home and its features for enhancing the safety and ability of residents who live independently, visit our IQ Homes Resource Page and download the free ebook, IQ Home: Intentional design for resident safety.
Building codes provide a reasonable level of safety and occupant comfort. Buildings are never “fire proof”, but they are built to provide a practical fire buffer, whether it be one, two or three hours. The same can be said of acoustical separation in buildings. Acoustics are a relative newcomer to building regulations, but the International Building Code does regulate how much noise should be allowed to transfer between residences. However, some noise should be expected in a multi-family living arrangement, and the Code recognizes this.