The New Standard in Senior Living

by Jennifer M. Bobbitt

Nursing Homes are a thing of the past. Senior Living is the new buzz word with the design and operations emphasis on LIVING. The evolution of housing options for seniors has been fueled by the revolution of residents and their families requesting more— more daylight, more activity spaces, more options, more rooms and more home-like settings in lieu of a traditional hospital inspired environment. The generation igniting the change and growth in Senior Living facilities is a group of fascinating, complex, resilient, and active individuals. According to a recent article in Leisure Care, “The Impact The Baby Boomers Have on Senior Living,” the number of Americans over 65 will more than double to 98 million by 2060. They are highly educated, living longer, and wealthier than previous generations.

Wellogy (formerly Davis Wince, Ltd. Architecture) teamed with developer NexCore Group and senior housing operator Meridian to respond to the changing market needs of Senior Living. Their new model for housing, assisted living, and memory care is creating a buzz in the industry and advancing changes in the market set for enormous growth in the next decade.

Thoughtful planning and research went into the new layout and design. The team designed and constructed three similar facilities, one in Marysville, Ohio and two in Indiana. The development team set goals for innovation and prioritized resident and staffing safety in this newly created Assisted Living (AL) /Memory Care (MC) prototype. The outcome created a new facility that left behind institutional associations for AL and MC residents and their families.
The interior design strategy created light-filled activity areas of open public spaces which took cues from local architecture. A welcoming double height space greets you upon entering Assisted Living with a central hearth to organize the public space. Open Lounges and a Bistro encourage interactions between residents, staff, and families.
The interior architecture drew from Ohio rural architecture using barn doors, a gambrel roof form, reclaimed wood, and wrought iron light fixtures while also integrating very modest modern appeal to residents and their adult children. Residents have several room choices including multiple studio options, one bedroom options, and a handful of two-bedroom units.
Operational safety, staffing efficiency, and comfort of residents guided the design of the Memory Care element. A truly open floor plan with a skylit pathway for resident circulation was designed to have a direct line of site from the caregiver desk in memory care. Within the loop path are programmatic options for interaction. Life stations are areas that are equipped with varying tasks for MC residents to execute.
Activities areas, lounge areas, and even a front porch are other spaces residents can experience. The simple idea behind Meridian’s operating philosophy is to get residents suffering from memory impairment out of their rooms and involved with constant activity.
Goals for this project:
  • Keep rates at levels comparable to older facilities in the market giving a huge boost to marketability;
  • Increase Memory Care staff time actively engaged with residents due to the open concept;
  • With less corners and hallways to walk down, with only one entrance to staff and with both dining rooms attached to the main kitchen, there is a reduced FTE count;
  • Get Memory Care residents actively engaged outside their rooms for long periods during the day allowing for these residents to sleep soundly through the night;
  • Increase the building area devoted to Memory Care activity space without increasing budget or sacrificing overall key performance metrics of SF/unit;
  • Improve sight lines of staff to resident rooms in Memory Care;
  • Make a connection to the local community and engage community members within the facility through the use of local art, pictures and reused materials;
  • Use familiarity of local landmarks to make transition to elder care more seamless;
  • Use of sensory gardens and life stations to engage residents;
  • Use architectural design to eliminate view to med carts;
  • Provide in-house medical services for residents for ease of transportation;
  • Provide limited access point to building for resident safety; and
  • Maintain circadian rhythms through use of appropriate and consistent lighting levels through daylight and nightfall.
Walnut Crossing was named a Finalist in the category of Post-Acute and Senior Living Facilities- Best New Ground-Up Development by Healthcare Real Estate Insights, a national trade publication covering the healthcare real estate sector.