Dean Maddalena

Today’s seniors are looking for choice and extravagance instead of boring and bland communities. As we continue to change the senior living world through design, our team members at studioSIX5 have put their heads together to come up with a list of must-watch industry trends for 2015. This list is developed over a wide range of knowledge about senior living secrets collected through working with dozens of diverse clients across the country.

We believe these trends demonstrate how the industry is growing and evolving. 

1.     Design that appeals to residents and their children

Many baby boomers’ first point of contact with senior living communities is when they go with their parents to visit a potential home. They’re not only looking for a place their parents feel comfortable with but they are asking themselves, “Would I live here?” If the interior design defies stereotypes and appeals to those boomers, chances are they’ll recommend the community to their parents and even consider it for themselves down the road.                                                                                                                                                          

2.     Reflecting your brand in the environment and experiences.

Share your brand’s voice through interior and exterior design. For example, choosing a style or color palette unique to the area and creating activities that engage all residents will set your community apart from the others.

3.     Open, flowing common spaces and enclosed rooms with flexible uses.

Closed-in, cut-off common rooms are being pushed aside in favor of layouts containing rooms with multifunctional possibilities, implementing partitions and adjacent amenities like restrooms, prep areas and storage spaces.

4.     Expanded, interactive “third-place” dining areas.

A new trend studioSIX5 is incorporating into its designs is the addition of small lounges within a community’s common area. The lounge can serve as a coffee shop during the day and easily convert to a bar for happy hour in the evening. These small additions quickly become the social heart of the community and add something special to each family’s experience.

5.     Spaces for development of mind, body and soul.

Many communities are choosing to add resort-caliber spas and fitness rooms as their residents are seeking to have all their wellness needs met on-site. We have seen an increase in requests for yoga rooms, Zen gardens and other meditation aids in senior living communities across the country.

6.     Increased demand for pet amenities.

This can be one of the items that will “make or break” a potential resident’s commitment to a community, and must be discussed. Increasingly, communities are creating “Bark Parks” for residents’ pooches to wander and play in, along with other indoor amenities such as pet salons or mobile pet grooming.

7.     Finding ways for residents to give back.

Activities that allow residents to give back to the community through volunteering or hosting community events have been growing in popularity. These activities give the residents a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction through helping others. Many residents are lifelong volunteers and want to continue that tradition as seniors.

8.     Incorporating hospitality-style amenities into short-term rehab or health centers.

After elective surgeries, many baby boomers spend time recovering at senior living communities. Communities are finding that they’re more interested in hotel- and hospitality-style amenities. It’s important to recognize and identify the changes that make the next generation of senior living residents comfortable.

9.     Increased cross-platform technology integration.

Gone are the days of community computer labs; now communities are hardwired for Wi-Fi to accommodate the iPads, Skype and social networking devices seniors rely on. USB plugs and other technology connections are being installed in common areas to accommodate this demand. Resident monitoring systems connected to electronic records also is growing in assisted living and memory care.

10.  Emphasis on elevated, restaurant-caliber dining venues.

It’s not uncommon for communities to request display kitchens, which are popular in many upscale restaurants, or to establish farm-to-table food options with local vendors. Residents are expecting as much choice as possible, and food is quickly becoming an important vehicle to provide that amenity. An engaging food experience has become the biggest request in lieu of the traditional banquet-style room with limited menu options. Hiring a talented chef to help design the dining experience is the best way to begin this process, and oftentimes the chef becomes the star of the community as a result. At right is a photo of Melangé Restaurant at Vivante on the Coast in Costa Mesa, CA, which offers residents a restaurant style, open-display kitchen complete with rotisserie, pizza oven, sushi bar, carving station and salad bar.     

Dean Maddalena is the president of studioSIX5.