From common areas to amenities, shifts are happening in the design of senior housing spaces to meet the evolving needs of both residents and staff. For owners and investors in senior-living housing, it’s important to work with an operator who is at the forefront of these new trends and knows how to execute them.

A paradigm shift from hospitality to healthcare
Senior living has always been a blend of hospitality and healthcare, and now the paradigm is shifting toward healthcare, which Senior Housing News has identified as one of the top senior housing trends for 2021. [i] The traditional senior-housing community attracts seniors with a luxury building that features amenities like a resort-style grand lobby, five-star dining experiences, pool, sauna and salon services. Yet the past year has meant a renewed focus on care and safety. “From 55+ active adult all the way up to skilled nursing, the servicing and management of older adults needs to balance both hospitality and healthcare,” said Tod Petty, executive vice president of Lloyd Jones Senior Living, which provides professional management services to senior-housing owners and developers. “When you work with an experienced operator, you can have both exceptional design and care in the same model. And you can have really great design at any budget.”

All baby boomers are not created equal
Within the 57- to 75-year-old baby boomer-bracket, seniors need different levels of care and require different programming, planning and design. It’s essential to have an understanding of the specific needs of the target demographic before design even begins. “Across the continuum of care, you have to have an understanding on the front end about who your target demographic is and who you are designing those buildings for,” said Melissa Banko, founder and principal of Banko Design, an interior design firm that specializes in the senior-living market.

Creating places where residents feel at home
One of the paramount concerns when designing for senior living is that the communities should feel like home. Balancing the residential allure with commercial needs while supporting the care component requires an interior design firm that understands this unique combination of deliverables. For example, successful lighting design for seniors means understanding how vision changes as one ages. As we age,  our pupils become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. Because of these changes, people in their 60s need three times more ambient light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s.[ii] “When we talk about light levels for seniors, it’s about balancing natural light and ambient light so they can successfully navigate their living spaces,” said Banko. “This includes outdoor pathway lighting, reducing glare, and appropriate task lighting.” Beyond lighting, there’s also ensuring there are slip-resistant finishes on flooring, and that materials are easily wipeable and cleanable and will hold up to constant cleaning and sanitizing.

Design strategies for senior-living staff
Designing successful senior housing includes creating layouts that support staff. Planning for day-to-day activities and ensuring that staff have the spaces they need are essential parts of the design work.

“Space planning that takes operations into consideration is going to be more efficient and can also boost employee satisfaction,” said Petty. “Asking the right questions will help create the right spaces. Such as, ‘What is the most effective travel path for delivering food from the kitchen to multiple dining rooms? Where are your care stations for distribution of medication? Are they in the right location for the staff?’”

Renovation and retrofitting
According to Environments in Aging, the pandemic has fueled more interest in modest, but impactful, renovations to existing facilities to protect residents and staff, as well as create a safe and secure environment that can mitigate the risk of infection.[iii] “It might be breaking down a large room to create a more flexible space,” said Petty. “It’s important to still create spaces for socializing, but to be strategic about it.” Technology advances to enhance environments will also be key, noted Petty. “Upgraded HVAC systems to provide more outside air circulation, the addition of UV light disinfection, and installation of touchless faucets are just a few of the tailored renovations that can promote safety.”

A new era in senior housing
Moving forward, design will play an integral role in how senior housing evolves. Collaboration between investors/owners, operators and interior design and planning firms is key to reexamining growth strategies and solutions to meet the non-traditional demands that have emerged out of the pandemic.

For more information about designing for the future of senior living, listen to a recent episode of the Senior Housing Unfiltered podcast, where Tod Petty and Melissa Banko speak further about this topic.





As the baby boomer population grows and life expectancy rises, the concept of senior housing has evolved to support a more independent, active lifestyle. Seniors want the ability to live safely, independently, and comfortably. At the same time, the current for-sale model of senior housing is unreachable to all but the top 5 percent of household income. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, housing inequality is rising among America’s older adults, and that “the time for innovation—in [senior] housing—is now. The quality of life and wellbeing of over a quarter of the US population will depend on it.” One of those innovative solutions pioneered by Lloyd Jones Senior Living is the development of middle-market rental housing that allows seniors to age in place effectively and access healthcare services on an as-needed basis. Lloyd Jones Senior Living’s Aviva-branded active adult communities are designed to support successful aging in place, and the rapid advancement in technology, especially in healthcare technology, is a key component to this success.

The implementation of advanced technology starts with the built environment. “Comprehensive Wi-Fi and connectivity services are integrated into all our communities,” said Tod Petty, Executive Vice President of Lloyd Jones Senior Living. “We believe investment in senior technology will continue to grow, and we’ve built in flexible systems to be able to adapt to future discoveries and resident needs.”

Wearables and fall prevention

Falls are one of the most common causes of injury in older adults. And with brittle bones and the risk of broken hips ever present, a serious fall can have serious – sometimes fatal – consequences. According to Science Daily, each year, more than one in three people over 65 will experience a fall, and there’s growing evidence that wearables can help predict an individual’s risk of falling in order to put in place preventive measures. “We’re particularly excited about wearable technology that tracks subtle changes in an individual resident’s activities of daily living patterns (ADLs) that could lead to significant health issues,” said Petty. “This wearable solution monitors ADLs to learn each resident’s unique daily patterns and provides AI-driven, actionable insights that indicate fall risk, as well as interrupted sleep patterns, urinary tract infections, and the onset of depression.” These multi-function wearables also provide real-time location services (RTLS) that enables staff to know where the resident is at all times and respond quickly in an emergency.

Strength training solutions for active wellness

There’s an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that indicates physical activity is one of the greatest opportunities to extend years of active and independent life. The National Institute on Aging recommends that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health. According to the researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine, older adults who strength trained at least twice a week had 46% lower odds of death during the study’s 15-year period than those who did not. “At our Aviva active adult communities, we’ll be using fitness equipment designed for seniors that provides safe, targeted training for a range of ability and stamina levels,” said Petty. “The equipment uses smart technology to remember each resident’s progress and create personalized strength training programs that automatically increase resistance when milestones are reached.”

Community engagement

Technology can also help create a sense of “friends and family” connectivity. Each Aviva-branded active adult community has its own locally inserted channel that shows important information such as menus, event schedules, recent activity photos, and more as part of its private digital network. And, the daily schedule connects with Amazon Alexa to make community information readily available by voice to residents. “When tech seamlessly blends with design and human needs, that creates an inspired environment, one that is safer and more stimulating for adults to age in place.”

10,000 baby boomers are retiring daily. Similar to the previous generation, baby boomers will be downsizing and seeking a new style of living, but their preferences will be extraordinarily different than that of their predecessors.

4 key areas will shape the way in which baby boomers will retire:

1. Technology: contrary to the generations before, baby boomers have access to modern technology that will influence how they spend their retirement. Wearables, home devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Echo, and  tablets are helping seniors stay connected while improving their lives.

2. Well-being: fitness regimes and nutritious lifestyles are growing trends that are desired by seniors. Facilities that incorporate classes and offer a means to stay fit and healthy will help slow down aging and be more sought after as a result.

3. Personalized care: another way in which the baby boomers will be differentiated from the generations before will be the ways in which they are cared for. The boomers will expect personalized care and concierge style services to meet their needs, and they will not tolerate the condescending way in which many have been treated in senior living facilities.

4. Community: According to the Pew Research Center, the number of adults living alone has been steadily declining since 1990.  PRC also states that older adults who live alone are less likely to be financially comfortable, have contact with friends or family, and spend time on hobbies (see sample chart below). Given these statistics, it is more important than ever that senior living offer a community-based lifestyle to keep older adults vibrant, happy, and engaged.