Senior Living design is not for the faint of heart. Successful projects often depend on a Design Team’s ability to skillfully merge design considerations inherent to a wide range of building prototypes including Healthcare, Educational, Multi-Family Residential, Hospitality Design, and Urban Planning. Emerging Senior Living design trends, and the need to consider how they might benefit a given project, may color our perception of “traditional” Senior Living spaces and what these spaces can/should look like. This article focuses on three such trends and how they overlap evolving Healthcare Design considerations.

Telehealth Considerations

It’s no coincidence that the explosive growth of telehealth services coincides perfectly with the arrival of the peri-covid patient, and more specifically, aging Senior Living residents, and aging healthcare consumers, who are oftentimes one and the same. Concerns over Covid exposure, financial constraints, and Government incentivized use of telehealth have bolstered telehealth’s place as a legitimate alternative to more traditional delivery of care models. “Lessons learned,” particularly those which are easily quantifiable, data-driven, and evidence-based in nature, are already being used to define the Senior Living model of the future. Consider, for example, Predictive Technologies, an offshoot of telehealth that helps to enable proactive interactions between clinicians and patients, is already being adopted in Senior Living design as a direct reaction to the “delay of care” concerns seen throughout the Covid pandemic. Patient tracking and remote monitoring, which trigger a clinical emergency response, are also examples of Senior Living design trends that find their origin in the Healthcare arena.

On-Campus Medical Services

The expanding role of On-Campus Medical Services would appear to contradict the Telehealth assertions previously discussed. But, the two are not at odds with each other, especially when considering what’ driving each of these trends. Access, for example, is the single biggest factor driving partnerships between the Medical community and Senior Living organizations. The idea is not a new one and one need only look as far as applied Community Health theories to understand the benefit of access in the delivery of care continuum and, more importantly, a health care approach that advocates for prevention over treatment. Not only are the two trends not at odds with each other, but they can in fact be complementary to one another. Consider for example partnerships where healthcare systems lease space at senior living facilities. These partnerships can address access-driven concerns through on-site, team-based, care models that can also provide the remote monitoring and data-tracking needs integral to the success of both, the telehealth considerations, and the on-campus medical service offerings.

Expanded Health and Wellness Offerings

The list of “lessons learned” from the Covid pandemic can at times feel endless. Take for example studies showing the propensity for Covid to physically, and mentally, affect even those who never contracted the disease. Months of isolation, and physical inactivity, have been linked to growing cases of stroke and heart disease even when excluding high-risk populations such as the elderly or the already chronically ill. This correlation is not news to Senior Living communities that have, for decades, made wellness offerings an integral part of their programming mix. What is new is a growing awareness of wellness considerations that support business imperatives and vice versa. A great example of this is a growing trend in Senior Living communities for expanded wellness perspectives that lead to an improved continuum of care outcomes for residents, as well as a quantifiable “return on investment” that can be measured in terms of both: demand for spaces within these Senior Living communities and high occupancy rates within these same communities.

A Healthcare Designer’s take

Healthcare and Senior Living designers face the challenge of overlapping design considerations that have been, historically speaking, exclusive to their respective disciplines. These “challenges,” as is often the case, may in fact give way to design opportunities that can, in turn, open the door to truly unique design solutions. Regardless, much can be gained by growing our understanding of the trends driving growth within each of these respective markets including how Telehealth, On-Campus Medical Services, and Expanded Healthcare Offerings trends can benefit both, Healthcare and Senior Living Design.

Ray Wong
Associate Principal, Tampa Healthcare Design Market Leader at Baker Barrios Architects