Subtle or Spectacular, Design Influences Ease of Engagement

By Sara Wildberger

encounter and when; spaces invite mingling, visits, fun, or close conversations; colors, light, and materials affect energy levels, mood, and well-being. While senior living designers and archi-


tects have long been aware of this, in new and renovated communities over the past year it became a particular challenge. A look at some of these show innovative ways to build engagement and recognition of the importance of engagement and socializa- tion—even at a distance—to overall health.

Flexibility One of the most prevalent and practical de- sign trends was creating flexible spaces that could adapt to large gatherings when ap- propriate or smaller, “pod,” activities. While features such as sliding doors, screens, and furniture groupings aren’t protective, they can help remind people to keep safer distances and smaller groups when that’s needed. Arbor Terrace Exton, in Exton, Pa., for in-

stance, has a third-floor art studio and theater with large sliding barn doors to change the space configurations depending on activities (Capitol Seniors Housing and Arbor Terrace; Meyer Senior Living Studio architecture and interiors). The spacious and expansive lobby at HarborChase of Stuart in Stuart, Fla., has subtle conversational groupings visually divided by columns, a two-sided fireplace, and interior design cues (Baker Barrios Ar- chitects, Inc., Thoma-Holec Design).

Multi-generational features Visiting became more difficult and more important over the past year. Its value had been recognized before that, however. Com-

Everlan by Dominion of Clemsonʼs broad porches with a view of the neighborhood invite friendly waves.

munities planned and designed over the past several years have featured multi-gen- erational spaces to make loved ones of all ages feel welcome and make a family visit anything but a “sit still” experience. Play spaces that can be shared or playgrounds with places to watch and applaud grandchil- dren’s adventures are trending up. Arbor Terrace Exton has both a chil-

dren’s nook and a technology library that family members can use.

Mixed communities Belmont Village’s Aliso Viejo (Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, architects; interior design by Danielle Lavallee, director of interior design at Belmont Village Senior Living) has its assisted living and memory care residences under one roof. Community members share common spaces and dining. “The design thwarts ageism, encourages socialization, and facilitates successful ag- ing,” Belmont Village writes. “This blended model offers flexibility for residents as needs


change and allows couples with varying health or cognitive needs to stay together.”

Household models Communities are exploring small wing ar- rangements and groupings that allow groups to share kitchens and common areas—a small, safer social group is built in. Azura As- sisted Living and Memory Care of Brookfield at Mierow Farm (Brookfield, Wis., GROTH Design Group architecture; GROTH and Matt Lyons, interiors) is implementing this model in all new communities. The provider designs communities in several 20-residence “households,” to encourage getting out of individual apartments and making more so- cialization natural in gathering spaces such as shared kitchens and living rooms. Each household has a slightly different color and interior theme.

Neighborhood interaction Ensuring community design fits with the surrounding neighborhood—and that the

n a senior living community, engage- ment is intrinsically tied to design— floor plans can guide who residents

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