OZ Architecture

Destigmatizing Senior Living Communities Through Design

From its layout to its amenities, Atria Englewood senior living community focuses on giving residents independence.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

Battling the stigma senior living communities have can be difficult. They are often seen in a negative light due to public perceptions of them being isolative, stagnant and outdated. However, there are those who are designing communities in a more modern and welcoming way to overcome this stigma. 

One architectural firm doing this is OZ Architecture, who are responsible for the Atria Englewood senior living community located in Englewood, Colorado. This community is 150,000 square feet with 24 memory care studios and 106 independent/assisted living apartments. 

According to Jami Mohlenkamp, principal at OZ Architecture, the client wanted more of an urban feel to the community while still maintaining a connection to a suburban area they could pull from. Mohlenkamp mentioned some of the nearby businesses included medical services and convenience stores. 

“The other thing the client really liked about this site is the fact it offered us some vertical height opportunities to be a taller building and really capture through the design some great views,” says Mohlenkamp. “So just in that high level, we took the top floor and added most of our amenity spaces up there versus the street level, which really gave all our residents an opportunity to capture mountain views and beautiful vistas. They are stellar from outside of this project.” 

Angela Gunn, associate principal at OZ Architecture, adds that OZ’s core tenants of their practice area is to destigmatize what older adult living should look like. Gunn says that they went with an approach where, as people drive by the facility, it is not obvious that it is a senior living community. Gunn even mentions that one time, a couple of young adults came by the community looking to rent an apartment since they had mistaken it for an apartment complex. 

“We went with a cleaner, more contemporary approach,” says Gunn. “We kept it clean with newer, more modern materials and it feels very urban. As you approach the main entry, we have an auto court that actually dips down underneath the building. It feels very resort-like and hospitality-friendly as far as the auto court and valet go.” 

Additionally, Atria wanted to create and foster independence within the residence, says Mohlenkamp. This was done through designing the individual units with an independent living philosophy and giving residents more opportunities to be on their own. The facility also has an urban feeling of connection to a larger community so residents can be active and go outside of the facility if they desired to, says Gunn. 

Another method OZ Architecture implemented to create an autonomous feeling was through amenities. Amenities include a main dining room, a demo kitchen, a game room, a sizeable theater, a café and a bistro. There are also dedicated lounge spaces on the floors for residents to socialize in. 

Overall, Atria is a facility that is a community for the active and independent senior. 

 Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market. 

August 24, 2023

Topic Area: Architecture

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