The next generation of senior citizens will have their own wants and needs. A paramount need will be getting their families to come and visit them. This is a challenge in and of itself, as it takes more than just changing the perception of retirement homes. It will take rethinking and redesigning the retirement home experience.
“A part of the big killer in senior living is loneliness. Some people are more outgoing, some people are more introverted, etc.,” says Daun St. Amand, global residential market lead at CRTKL. “However, the common denominator I think is families, and then you look at those lifestyles they had before retirement. Things like family traditions, birthdays, holidays and just getting together.”
However, those old traditions and gatherings become tougher to do after the transition to a senior living facility.
“You can do that in the unit, but a lot of these units are fairly small. So, if you have a family of let's say 10 to 12 people, it's very difficult to do,” St. Amand says. “In response to this, we've developed this concept where we're looking at creating these family rooms that are common areas.”
These family rooms would have a kitchen, seating, a dining table, a couch and a TV. Normally, this would be a common area for the residents to use. Though, it can also be rented out or reserved by different families. This is one approach CRTKL has taken to attract families to come and visit.
“The family room, the private dining room, being able to cook meals together and to invite the entire family is an important experience,” says Natalie Ruiz, associate principal at CRTKL. “It's multigenerational and with those spaces you can create those moments and memories. Those spaces are both indoor and outdoor. So, it’s really about the variety of spaces people have to congregate.”
However, there are additional approaches to take, too.
“Besides the architecture, what can we do for more activities that involve families that are promoted by the senior living facility itself? So, you have something like arts and crafts. Well, is it arts and crafts for grandchildren with grandma? Or is it some opportunity for a cooking lesson for adults where you bring in or the parents with the grandparents?” says St. Amand.
Programs like that are another approach to attract families to come visit.
“You extend that program to include the family so that there is an event on the calendar. The children and the parents of that family would be compelled to join the grandparents or the community,” says St. Amand. “So, programming opportunities for events and the like to attract families are just as important as creating the architecture around it.”
Attracting families will prove to be challenging as society emerges from a lengthy pandemic. However, designers and architects are accounting for these exact concerns.
“From the architecture standpoint, there have been more discussions about the HVAC, and certainly there's a lot of conversations about filtration in most of the senior living projects that we do,” says St. Amand.
What can be done about HVAC and filtration systems will vary largely upon the facility. One facility can afford to put in and outfit themselves with technology, while another will have to rely on other solutions that make sense for them.
Getting family members to visit will be a challenge for some time yet. Though, if facilities managers and designers take things like family rooms, programming and indoor air quality into consideration, that challenge can be overcome.
Jeff Wardon is the assistant editor for the facilities market.