Investing in a well-designed lobby for a senior community can set the tone for a successful community tour.
Michael Lowry Photography Investing in a well-designed lobby for a senior community can set the tone for a successful community tour.

The senior living industry has seen growth among multifamily developers, either renovating existing properties and transforming them for new markets or starting from scratch. Aesthetically, the lines between senior living and multifamily housing are blurred. As similar as the two markets have become, there are still important factors to consider when designing for seniors. These differences are easily overlooked but imperative to the safety of residents and success in the marketplace.

1. No one is looking for the stereotypical “old folks home.” Today’s seniors are much more in tune with the aesthetic and lifestyle amenities that draw most apartment dwellers. Envision the lifestyle you’d want for yourself and make sure the design reflects that.

2. Senior design must keep key others in mind. Designs must speak to not only the resident, but the adult child helping select a community. When they take a tour on behalf of their parent, it must offer an environment they could picture themselves enjoying, too. A good first impression is key.

3. Today’s seniors are attracted to the notion of aging-in-place. To compete with the home, communities must support the level of independence seniors expect. Design considerations for vision and mobility changes can support a healthy, active lifestyle for residents as they age. Considering color schemes, furnishings design, and durable finishes make all the difference for attractive, lasting design.

4. When envisioning a community with the intent of supporting aging residents, you must consider catering the aspects of the design for each type of resident. Active adult communities will have fewer food service considerations than assisted living. Memory care communities will include design elements to support cognitive decline. Consider the needs of residents at each level of care when designing your space.

5. Design must build around the resident experience (e.g., resident-centric design) and create an environment as personalized and inviting as an upscale apartment complex or hotel—to deliver a true “hospitality” environment to residents. This also means tailoring amenities and services to communicate the lifestyle residents can expect from your community.

6. A happy staff means happy residents, so designing for employee retention is important. Are the back-of-house areas centrally located and easily accessible? Do kitchens and dining rooms provide efficient workflow? What amenities are the most important to the employees you’re trying to attract?

7. Believe it or not, these tips just begin to scratch the surface for designing a stellar senior community. With the right considerations many attractive elements of multifamily housing can be adapted to support the needs of senior residents. When considering expanding into senior living properties—no matter the care level—partnering with a design firm with expertise in senior living ensures that you’ll make all the right choices for a mature resident population.