Privacy, cozier shared spaces will be key to attracting and satisfying residents and families who have increasing variety of housing options

With eldercare in assisted and independent living becoming “exceedingly expensive,” Remax 24/7 Principal Broker Susanne Novak believes multi-generational living will have a growing influence on residential design.

That could mean more families will be looking to bring their aging parents home with them, increasing the need for competing nursing homes to do a better job of incorporating family-friendly, home-like concepts into their designs.

COVID-19 upended everything, “accelerating a movement aimed at completely rethinking how we age and where,” as Politico declared early in the pandemic.

Novak presents compelling evidence of this: First-floor owner suites are standard with almost any new construction home and provide options for “an independent apartment for an aging parent, a home office, or a place to homeschool your children.” Tiny house-like Accessory Dwelling Units also are sprouting up across the country, 

Alexis Denton, associate principal in senior living at Perkins Eastman, authored the VA’s “Small House Design Guide” before joining Perkins Eastman. She has found nursing home redesign and renovation the most satisfying part of her current work.

“There are ample opportunities to do creative work for twin occupancy rooms in terms of lighting and economizing spaces,” even while pondering how to afford major renovations given inflationary pressures and high construction costs, she added.

Those pressures, adds Kwalu project manager Daniel Gimblet, are leading many owner-operators into a conservative approach for now. “The trend now is for more renovation (rather) than new build as owners want to maintain, at the highest level, their existing assets,” he said.

“There’s an inflection point right now in nursing home design,” said Denton, who sees many facilities gravitating toward the Green House model, emphasizing pods and small-scale common and dining areas. “I’m hopeful that we’re at the beginning of a design renaissance in skilled nursing,” she said, “one where we finally understand the benefits of creating residential small house environments that don’t just mimic a home, but truly are homes.”