Wellness among older adults has traditionally been considered a physical goal of health and mobility, often achieved in a gym, pool, or fitness center. But senior living community operators are now tapping into the natural environment for resident wellness programming opportunities as well.
Today’s senior living population is more active into older age, and often engage in some type of physical activity as part of their lifestyle. A significant portion of seniors cite wellness programs as a deciding factor in choosing a senior living community, suggesting that wellness is increasingly important to both current and future residents.
In response to changing expectations, senior living communities are looking outdoors to enhance their resident wellness programming. Including exterior spaces such as walking trails, community gardens, exercise areas, and fitness stations not only serves to enhance residents’ physical health, but other areas of wellness as well.
Outdoor wellness programming in senior living environments has been proven to positively impact all areas of resident wellness. In this context, the term wellness takes into account the whole person, incorporating not just physical health, but also residents’ emotional, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, social, and environmental well-being.
Open-air senior living environments now serve multiple purposes. A beautifully-landscaped community courtyard may double as a meditation garden or exercise area for yoga, tai chi, and other fitness classes. While focused on physical exercise, these activities also encourage social interaction and serve to enhance residents’ emotional, spiritual, and environmental wellness. Flower gardens maintained by community residents can be used for social and emotional wellness, or to visually enhance interior spaces by bringing nature indoors.
Recreation areas for lawn games such as bocce ball and croquet, or shuffleboard and pickle ball courts, target residents’ physical health, yet also enhance their social, occupational, and environmental wellness. Intentionally designed exterior spaces, like walking trails with fitness stations, offer less strenuous activity than lawn games but create equally impactful environmental and social experiences.
Outdoor cooking and dining present additional opportunities for senior living wellness programming. Open-air cooking classes and demonstrations, fully-equipped outside kitchens, and al fresco dining venues are increasingly popular among senior living communities for their social, intellectual, environmental, and occupational values. Produce made available through community herb or vegetable gardens and greenhouses can be used to create a farm-to-table experience and promote healthy eating.
Meeting seniors’ wellness needs transcends physical exercise and therapy activities. Today’s residents want greater opportunities to maintain and enhance their wellness as part of a healthy lifestyle. Senior living communities are looking to the natural environment to improve residents’ lives across the spectrum of wellness, helping to provide spaces to socialize and enjoy individual and group activities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.
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.
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.
“I never try to teach my students anything, I only try to create an environment in which they can learn.”
— Albert Einstein
Although collaborative learning seems to be a relatively recent innovation, this interactive approach to learning was actually the norm centuries ago. In Ancient India, life and learning coexisted much like the student and his teacher, or guru, with every aspect of daily life presenting opportunities for learning. Likewise, scholars of Confucius, Muhammad and other well-known ancient teachers gathered as a group for a variety of interactive learning experiences.
What is your relationship with your Building Code official? Is it non-existent, adversarial, or healthy? Ideally, you have a clear, open line of communication with your Building Code Official (also known as a BCO.) Cooperating and addressing issues openly with your BCO will provide many long term benefits for you and your facility.
If your profession involves senior care, you have undoubtedly heard the term “culture change” for the past few years at conferences and in numerous publications. Generally speaking, everyone agrees that culture change is a necessary and desired shift in the delivery of services and care to seniors. Developers advocate culture change. Design professionals support it. Retirement communities have incorporated the term and its concepts into their brands and mission statements.
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.
York College of Pennsylvania
Willman Business Center
Formerly known as simply the “BA Building,” the newly renovated and greatly expanded Willman Business Center is one of the most prominent buildings at York College of Pennsylvania. In fact, the five-story, 32,297 square foot addition makes it the tallest building on campus. The project also encompassed 21,937 square feet of renovated spaces. Completed in time for the 2013 Fall semester, the updated facility provides nine new “smart” classrooms with seating for 40, a 150-seat lecture hall, training labs for students enrolled in finance and operations management courses and dining and event space for up to 300 people.
Interior design for senior living has changed significantly in the last several decades. While many people associate senior living with the sterile environments of the mid-century nursing home, the reality is that today’s senior living facilities are more closely linked with hospitality design than with hospital design.