As we age, so do the dynamics of the way we live, and designers must understand and account for changes that occur in order to incorporate appropriate solutions. The term “design for the aging” encompasses a huge realm of ideas. Everything from Independent Living to Memory Care and Hospice is available in a wide range of housing options to seniors in today’s market.
From extreme rural environments to dense urban communities, the strategy for housing our aging population has changed drastically with the aging of our Baby Boomer generation. This population was born and grew up in a much different world. Technology was not available to the masses which spawned the need for community. Connectivity, wellness, and independence have become design goals that transform spaces into environments.
Among all the new and creative design solutions, one is especially forward-thinking. An inspiring developer from Little Rock who is well versed in the senior care market, along with P. Allen Smith, a local garden expert and TV host, has envisioned a way to integrate several key areas of senior supportive design in an agrarian setting. Cromwell Architects Engineers has taken the idea, developing a functional and innovative community design called The Gardens of Somerset. It is a multi-level care community based on a ‘farm-to-table’ approach that targets the new cohesiveness between nature and wellness.
This flagship community will include Independent Living cottages, Assisted Living, Memory Care, an event center, a farming barn, and all the fresh food a resident can eat while capturing the essence of a modern-day agrarian community while being in a semi-urban setting: Monroe, Louisiana.
It will boast all the amenities of modern senior care including a viable food production farm. Residents can go into the garden and select and harvest what they want for lunch and dinner, reinforcing the benefit of a holistic wellness lifestyle.
Boomers are far more active and demand communities that support an active lifestyle. People in this age group are aware of a healthy lifestyle and how to achieve it. Some communities are returning to an urban environment, sparking the need for more walkable areas within the urban fabric.
Boomers will continue to influence the way a portion of our cities are designed. Age-friendly cities are becoming more popular as our senior population grows. These cities create environments and processes that are encouraging for seniors to live. They have paths to get to vital amenities such as the grocery store, pharmacy, and parks. They incorporate better public transportation; they create social support groups across all ages, and usually have a larger overall economic vitality.
As with any cycle, this one will slow. It is projected that in 2035, the number of seniors will be more than the number of children for the first time in U.S. history. By 2050, we will have an abundance of facilities built to accommodate seniors that will need to be repurposed. Facilities that are designed for flexibility and have the ability to be converted rather easily to apartments will be ahead of the game.
Predictions for the future of designs that accommodate, stimulate, vitalize, and activate seniors are positive. There are many types of communities and facilities that are currently being planned that accommodate seniors in new and creative ways.