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5 Trends Revolutionizing Senior Housing Design And Construction


The United States is getting older. By 2050, 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65 years old. In preparation for the coming wave of aging Americans, senior housing development has gained popularity, with 59% of U.S. senior housing investors anticipating an increase in the size of their portfolios in 2017. 

While senior housing construction slumped following the 2008 financial crisis, new access to capital has developers breaking into the asset class and expanding housing options for elders. But beige hospital tiles and fluorescent lighting have fallen out of favor, replaced with luxury amenities found in high-end multifamily and hotel projects. Baby boomers demand access to a broad range of activities, improved dining experiences, access to wellness facilities and the flexibility to make living centers their homes. 

Skender Construction, a Chicago-based contractor, has been at the forefront of the shift in senior living. Its team shared five trends shaping design and construction in the growing market.

1. Focusing on hospitality and service 

A lack of programming and service can lead to mental and physical stagnation. It is not enough to add fitness centers and spas to senior housing. Services with a human touch should supplement these spaces. Residents want personal trainers and program coordinators to maximize their use of facilities and to build a sense of community. As the market continues to evolve, luxury senior housing will begin to mirror the accommodations and concierge-style amenities found in luxury hotels.

2. Creating multipurpose, flexible spaces

Elders hesitant to join a senior housing community worry about feeling isolated. Social interaction has proven therapeutic when it comes to managing stress at all ages. Residents want to hold large meetings and events in spaces that can also be broken down into smaller breakaway areas for special interest groups and hobbies. Rooms normally reserved for one function, like a dining room, can transform into cocktail lounges or impromptu theaters. 

Developers can plan ahead for flexibility in the construction process by building spaces with fewer structure-bearing walls and columns. 

3. Placing physical therapy services at the front of the facility 

The cost of upkeep and potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid have some facilities shifting toward a short-term care and outpatient model, combining independent living with skilled nursing facilities. Centers have adopted a service-oriented plan that focuses on improved quality of treatment, faster recovery times and lower return rates.

To provide easier access to visitors and to encourage outpatients to use the services, rehabilitation gyms, spas and fitness areas have been placed closer to the entrance. The location of the amenities keeps a balance between private and public space while high-end design schemes attract younger visitors.  


4. Upgrading technology infrastructure

Contrary to the stereotype, baby boomers not only have a grasp on today’s technology, but also use it as frequently as their millennial grandchildren. A Nielsen study found that 45% of Generation X and 52% of baby boomers stare at their phones during meals. Senior housing needs to be up-to-date with technological demand, and developers have started to incorporate WiFi, USB connections in furniture and keyless entries. 

5. Building for cost-effectiveness  

While senior living has grown luxurious in response to baby boomers' $3 trillion buying power, rising price tags do not fit the retirement outlook of many Americans. Higher construction prices and pressure to increase occupancy have priced many out of the market. In South Florida, the waiting list for affordable senior housing is anywhere from four to eight years

Foreseeing possible instability in the luxury senior housing market, developers have turned toward more affordable sites. Implementing budget-friendly design choices like modular carpet tiling can maintain aesthetics without breaking the bank. 

Skender implements cost-cutting strategies during design and construction that not only keep projects under budget and affordable, but also allow facilities to begin generating revenue faster. The contractor is a pioneer in lean construction, eliminating waste and playing the economic adviser on both material costs and the lifetime expenses of the project. Skender's techniques prove that comfort and affordability for seniors do not have to be mutually exclusive. 

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