As an Interior Designer I have been approached lately with the question:
"What does the next generation want in Senior Living?”
My answer typically is, “What would Mick Jagger want?” The boomer generation that is currently coming into Independent Living and will be approaching Assisted Living and Skilled Care in the next 10-20 years want to be treated special with pampering and luxury services. They see themselves as a guest in the communities and want to be treated as if they are at a retreat or resort. As a designer, I feel this is exactly what we need to give them. We need to start looking at unique ways to bring hospitality services into the communities.
Choice of dining is number one on the list when you think of luxury offerings for seniors. They not only want the choice of what to eat, but where they would like to eat. Newer communities are going to need to offer several different venue options for their guest and visiting families. Formal restaurant style dining with themes and atmosphere will be key for success: bistros and cafes for casual dining, tea rooms in the afternoon, wine tasting before dinner, a sports bar to go watch the big game, and happy hour. Not only will dining inside be necessary, but outdoor options with a view will bring joy to their daily lives. If not feeling well one day, they will want an option for room service with style. In order to make this profitable for providers, creativity will need to occur when it comes to staffing. One popular option currently is bringing the surrounding community in for events, adding senior centers as part of the building, and opening up the venues with outside restaurant owners who can also serve the public. A bigger community also allows for providing more dining options.
Holistic health is number two on the list. The new (young) generations of seniors want to feed their minds, hearts, and souls. They want to learn new things by being able to take continuing education classes, teach classes, have special book clubs, and discussion groups. They will prefer scheduled personal activities with choice versus a schedule provided to them by an activity director. Wellness is the key and they will participate in fitness classes, yoga, Tai Chi, and community nature walks. Along with their standard medical exams, they will visit the acupuncturist; massage therapist, and alternative medicine providers. They will not only want a salon or barber to get their hair done with a private appointment, but will want options for manicures, pedicures, and beauty treatments. Not only will they want these things for themselves, but also their visiting guest. Do not forget their beloved pets; they will require pampering as well.
VIP service is third on the list. They want their needs met now and will have little patience if they have to wait. A concierge desk will be a must in serving these needs, from maintenance of their guest unit to having their dog walked at 11am every day. They will want options for transportation to be provided on a regular basis and will schedule through this concierge service. With one push of a button on their iPad or TV remote, they can schedule a golf game or a special trip to the local casino. No more doing housework or laundry for these guest, they will want someone to come in and do their laundry and cleaning, so they can focus on enjoying their elder years. As cars come on to the market in the next ten years that can drive themselves, they will want cars to be available to them at a moment’s notice for shopping trips or family visits.
Technology will pay a huge role in their daily lives with social interaction, research, games, and using Skype to communicate with long distant family and friends. Apartments will need to have communication packages that will provide everything at a touch of a button that is senior friendly. Imagine the next generation playing an old time favorite like checkers via virtual gaming with their grandchildren across the state or even country.
This generation will not be sitting around peeling potatoes or baking cookies; they will be signing up for culinary classes with their friends. This generation will not grow old without a fight. They will do all the things they have always wanted to do, whether it is painting in watercolors at a nearby lake, or writing that novel they have always intended to write. They may need assistance to achieve the goal, but they will be happy doing it. They will require flexible multi-purpose spaces in order to flex to the activity that they personally are organizing on campus. Activity Directors will no longer be making monthly calendars of events, but will be working for guest who make request in order to start their own club or event.
It is our job as designers, architects, providers, operators and builders to make sure we meet the needs of this generation. Think outside the box, and be ready for what the future will bring.