The numbers of Americans reaching retirement age is increasing by the thousands daily. To remain competitive and in response to socioeconomic conditions, senior living facilities are challenging old design standards and are pursuing a wide range of housing options for seniors. Rather than nursing care options, many families are considering aging in place, home care, and multi-generational housing as viable options; those who do opt for the more typical residential senior living facilities will find a wide variety of options. From eco-friendly, to smart homes, to traditional facilities with expanded amenities, the providers and consumers are being more creative with demand for out-of-the box solutions leading the trend.
Of the more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 daily, 5-8% of them will seek seniors-only housing. Senior housing categories include senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, nursing care, and continuing care retirement communities. Senior living facilities have much to offer and have come a long way from the clinical institutions that most of us remember. The industry is reinventing itself, to meet the needs of the ageing baby boomers.
In recent years, there has been a decline in the traditional concept of senior housing, which most often included nursing homes. Now there is movement toward providing seniors more options and distinctive amenities, with a focus on optimizing resident privacy and dignity. Studies have shown that elderly people don’t want to live in institutions; they prefer a more home-like setting. The Green House movement, which began in Tupelo, Mississippi, is a new senior housing alternative that caters to this new demand. This senior living concept provides an environment that consists of a big house with 8-10 bedrooms, common living and dining areas, and is staffed with round the clock caregivers.
Senior living providers are beginning to incorporate hospitality design concepts into their facilities in an effort to make facilities appear less institution-like. By switching from vinyl flooring to carpets with moisture barriers that can be cleaned with industrial strength cleaners, or adding wall coverings that meet infection control requirements, providers can upgrade the aesthetics of their facilities while maintaining healthcare codes and standards.
It is a fact that as seniors live longer, more will be affected by cognitive disabilities. Many senior housing projects are beginning to address the need for special memory care facilities for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. These memory care facilities provide a wide range of safety features to prevent residents from leaving the facility unattended. They also have addressed the “sundowning effect” by installing windows with adjustable shades and lighting to lessen the impact brought on by the setting of the sun.
Technology is also playing a role in new senior living environments. Devices such as wireless pendants that are activated when a resident falls, or devices that monitor vital signs, or that manage medication, make it possible for people to live longer in a less restrictive clinical space.
Providers of senior living facilities are moving away from depressing institutional style environments to ones that allow residents to balance independence with support and enhances their quality of life.